What is it about really cold weather that makes me crave carbohydrates? I swear to God, I woke this morning huddled beneath the down comforter and my nose was cold - cold, like I'd been out on the rink skating or tossing wood into the woodbox for half an hour or walking the dog briskly down our dirt road! No ambient heat in the house, the baseboards creeking to life as warm water made its way on the circuit, frost feathers decorating every window in the upper story of the house, the sunrise a lovely reddish-orange stain making its way from the corner of the bedroom window toward the curtain. And what did I think of ? No sigh of shivering frustration. No blissful adoration of the beauty of Mother Nature. Nope. I thought of a warm steamy bowl of risotto ... seriously.
Now, I know foodbloggers sometimes lie in bed at night and think up what they will 'wow' their readers with, and these thoughts of risotto had nothing to do with that at all. These thoughts were purely instinctive. I need to make a meal that will stick to my ribs and bring sustained warmth from the inside, as I huddle close to the fireplace to warm my wool lap blanket, don my fingerless gloves and tap out this post on The Spice Garden. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit ... not about the wool blanket and not about needing the risotto.
I have a box of fresh spinach that needs to be cooked, so I am making a bed of buttery spinach and garlic. This apple and ham risotto is going to be plopped atop and the spoon and napkin are going to accompany the bowl to my warm niche on the couch. What a nice lunch to have with a steaming hot cup of tea ... I hope you are keeping warm today! AND if you're someplace warm, I hope you are basking in that warmth! I'm positively green-eyed with envy at your luck!
Apple and Ham Risotto
a recipe adapted from The Best American Recipes 2000
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1 large apple, peeled and chopped
¾ c. Arborio rice
¼ c. dry white wine
2 – 3 oz. cooked ham steak, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
3 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
2 – 3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Prepare the hot broth and set it aside, keeping it warm.
- Melt 1 tsp. of the butter in the bottom of a large heavy saucepan. Add half of the chopped apple and brown it over high heat.
- While the apple browns, chop the other half more finely. Prepare the onion.
- Turn the brown chunks of chopped apple into a serving dish and set it aside.
- Add the rest of the butter and the olive oil to the hot saucepan with the onion and the finely chopped apple, turning it in the hot butter and oil until it glistens.
- Add the rice and brown it up just a bit.
- Add the white wine and let most of it cook off.
- Add ½ c. of the hot broth, the ham, and the thyme leaves, stirring frequently.
- When the broth has almost been absorbed, add 1 c. more broth and lower the heat to a low temp, letting the risotto bubble and slowly absorb the liquid, adding more as it becomes almost all absorbed.
- When there is about ½ c. broth left, start tasting the rice to be sure not to overcook it. It should have a bit of bite left.
- Add the Parmesan cheese and the fresh parsley, stir to melt the cheese and make a creamy smooth finish to the risotto.
- Turn the risotto into warm bowls and add the reserved chopped apple to top the rice. Add a bit more parsley if desired and serve piping hot.