Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Orzo With Porcini Mushrooms, Radicchio and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Orzo With Porcini Mushrooms, Radicchio and Aged Balsamic Vinegar recipe

Anybody who lives in Los Angeles and cares an iota about food considers the chef and restaurateur Nancy Silverton a household name. She who made her name baking {La Brea Bakery} and then proved her prowess as a savory chef {Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza-in partnership with Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich}. 

She has published a few cookbooks and one that I have talked about in the past is A Twist Of The Wrist. I received a copy a few years ago-a surprise gift for no reason than just because from my very good friend Helen. On a regular basis, I pick it up, leaf through it and am reminded that I should simply start from page one and work my way through this treasure trove of recipes. Honestly, each recipe I have made be it soup...crostini...salads...has been phenomenal. Where the book {which is actually a collection of rustic recipes NS has culled  from herself and a host of other well-known chefs} may excel most is in the areas of frittatas and pasta. As the weather turns colder I am making a commitment to focus on this cookbook. Like now.

Frittata or pasta? Pasta. And whether you eat pasta regularly or on occasion, this dish is for you. It's comfort food featuring orzo, the tiny little pasta that resembles rice. The end result is suspiciously similar to risotto but the preparation does not require 30 minutes of patient stirring as risotto typically does. This is an easy dinner but one that resembles something you would get in a fine Italian restaurant. Porcini mushrooms are definitely the star. The radicchio, which is quite bitter raw, cooks down to an ingredient that is wholly mellow -  providing color and texture more than else. In terms of other ingredients: don't invest in expensive "extra vecchio" balsamic vinegar as the affordable aged variety in your grocery store is perfectly fine; do invest in Parmigiano-Reggiano - yes there is a marked difference between this and plain old Parmesan cheese.

Orzo With Porcini Mushrooms, Radicchio and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
kosher salt
1 c orzo
3 T olive oil
1 T minced fresh garlic
1 T minced shallot
2 c shredded radicchio leaves {about 3/4 of a head}
1 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
4 T butter
high quality olive oil for drizzling
4 t aged balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Place the mushrooms in a bowl and add enough hot water to cover them. Cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes and continually remind yourself that when you drain them you must reserve some of the liquid. Drain, reserving 1 c of liquid.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a generous bit of kosher salt. Add the orzo, return to a boil and stir occasionally to prevent the orzo from sticking together. Cook until just tender, per the packaging instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 3 T olive oil, garlic, shallots and a pinch of kosher salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir constantly to prevent browning,  cooking until the shallots and garlic are soft and fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn the heat to high and stir in the 1 c reserved liquid from the mushrooms, the mushrooms and radicchio. Turn off the heat.

Reserve 1/4 c pasta water and drain the pasta, transferring quickly to the skillet while it is still dripping with water. Turn the heat to high and stir in the reserved pasta water and cheese. Lower the heat and cook for 30 seconds. Add the butter and stir to melt. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

To serve, spoon pasta on 4 plates or in 4 bowls. Drizzle with high quality olive oil and 1 t of balsamic vinegar per plate. Grate a small amount of cheese on top of each plate and finish with freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 4.

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Source: A Twist Of The Wrist, Nancy Silverton

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