Saturday, July 03, 2010
Cavalo Nero & Guanciale Risotto
The cabbage family sure is one huge kingdom, containing as it does green and red cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, collard greens, kohlrabi and kale.
Some think kale to be a forerunner of modern cabbage with its leaves growing separate from each other and not forming the more familiar head. Members of the kale family tend to have tougher leaves and a stronger earthy flavour, with an iodine like character.
Cavolo nero or black cabbage is one particular kale that has become more fashionable lately; Ruth Rogers and the sadly departed Rose Gray of the Italian influenced River Cafe were particular champions of this unique handsome vegetable.
One thing that all members of the cabbage family share in common is an affinity for pork, especially fatty pork. Europe is awash with dishes that combine these two ingredients, think sauerkruat, cabbage rolls, garbure and cassoulet to name a few.
One race of people who have put their particular stamp on all things piggy are the Italians who happen to be masters at curing various parts of the animal, wasting nothing. They even take the cheek of the pig and cure it to make guanciale; with a gently sweet taste, it's considered the traditional choice for a classic pasta alla carbonara.
So it seemed only natural to not only marry these two ingredients, but to conduct the ceremony in an Italian accented risotto, the cooking time of which softens the cavolo nero perfectly but retains its deep flavour and colour.
Guanciale can be a trifle hard to source, pancetta, which is more widely available could be substituted. The centre rib of cavolo nero is super tough and needs to be stripped out.
Cavolo Nero & Guanciale Risotto
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely diced
250g guanciale or pancetta, cut into lardons
500g risotto rice
100ml white wine
1 bunch cavolo nero, centre rib removed, leaves shredded
2l light chicken stock, at a simmer
150g pecorino cheese, finely grated
salt & fresh ground black pepper
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large pan, add the finely diced onion and sweat until soft then add the guanciale or pancetta and cook for another minute. Add the risotto rice and toast for a minute or two, stirring all the while, then add the white wine and cook until all the wine is absorbed, add the cavolo nero.
Put a couple of ladles of chicken stock in the pan and cook until almost absorbed, then add another two ladles and give the pan a stir. Continue in this way until the rice is cooked to your liking, about 20 minutes. If you use up all the chicken stock, just add some boiling water instead.
Turn off the heat, add the remaining butter, the pecorino cheese and stir in. Season to taste and serve in bowls.