In the middle of a trip to New York City with my friend, Dorothy, we decided to spend a leisurely day touring Greenwich Village. It was more of a “why not” than a determined destination. Our new friend, Max the Bartender, had told us about an Italian restaurant, Lupa Osteria Romana, in the West Villiage that we should include in the culinary adventure part of our trip. He had a bartender friend there who made our reservation. Besides, I really wanted a good risotto.
The day went well. While the Greenwich Village of the 60s had all but disappeared, what we did find were fabulous shops, incredible cafés and iconic coffeehouses. It was a rather normal day of touring, but all day, the “call of risotto” was in the back of my mind until it had been placed on a legendary flavor pedestal. I must admit; I spoke of it continually through the day. By early evening, we were practically running to Lupa’s for dinner.
Upon providing the Maître D’ our names, we were escorted to the bar area of the restaurant; a normal occurrence when a bartender is making your reservation. Mitchell welcomed us as old friends; Max’s friends were his friends. He immediately provided fabulous cocktails with a side of various Salumi and marinated olives. It was warm and comfortable sitting there. We relaxed and began to peruse the menu.
I quickly scanned the menu for my beloved risotto. It was not there! Thinking it must be hidden as a side with one of the entrées, I slowly read the description of each and every dish on the menu. No, it simply was not there! I turned the menu towards Mitchell and attempted to use my calm voice, “Would you please show me where the risotto is located?”
Mitchell scanned the menu and replied, “I do not believe we have ever served risotto”. I was devastated. The world as I knew it had ceased to exist.
Frustration began to build within me. Unfortunately, at that time in my life when frustration built it was quickly followed by anger. Before I could blurt out an unforgivable response, Dorothy quietly placed a hand on my arm. “Sip your cocktail for a moment” and left her seat.
As I attempted to calm myself, I once again looked over the menu. Second best would have to do this evening. There had to be a dish in such an incredible restaurant that would appease me.
Dorothy returned and slid into her seat. She did not comment on the incident and began to review the menu, then beckoned our waiter.
He arrived with a kind face and inquired as to what we would prefer that evening. I placed my order. It was a lamb dish. He approved of my choice and then added, “Am I to assume it will be accompanied by a side of risotto?” and smiled.
Dorothy began to laugh. Her departure had been in search of the Maître D’ to explain our dilemma. She explained we knew it was our final trip together and she was determined it would be our best. Dorothy apparently implored him to mediate on our behalf with the chef for my risotto.
As the waiter departed, Dorothy leaned over and quietly shared another bit of wisdom. “Go through life with grace in every situation. Your heart will thank you and so will everyone around you.”
It took me some time to transition into a graceful way of living, but Dorothy would be proud.
As for the risotto, it did not disappoint.
While the risotto served that evening was the inspiration for this recipe, the use of black truffles provides a rich, woodsy flavor base. Beginning with black truffle olive oil, the flavor penetrates through the dish. Go sparingly with the final shaving of black truffles atop the dish. The key is to provide a woodsy flavor tier, not to overwhelm the diner. If your local grocery does not carry either, they are readily available online.
While delicious as a side with most entrées, this rustic risotto is especially good paired with steak. Lightly toasting the Arborio rice prior to adding the wine provides a savory depth as a counter to the robustness of grilled red meat.
Inclusion of herbs other than parsley is a bit unusual for risotto but pleasantly increases the flavor tiers. The dried herbs are brought to their fullness during the slow addition of the chicken stock.
Key to achieving a creamy risotto is slowly adding the chicken stock. Do not rush this process. Be sure each addition is fully absorbed prior to adding additional stock and stir continuously.
3 c chicken stock
1 T heavy cream
3 T butter, unsalted
1 T black truffle olive oil such as Selezione Tartufi Black Truffle Oil
½ c shallots, finely chopped
½ t garlic, minced
1 c Arborio rice
1 t dried parsley
½ t dried basil
½ t dried oregano
1 c dry white wine such as Ladoucette Comte Lanfond Sancerre Blanc 2015
½ c Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 t fresh thyme
1-2 black truffles such as Truffles USA Whole Black Truffles
Place the chicken stock and cream in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower heat and keep stock at a slow simmer.
Place the butter, truffle oil, shallots and garlic in a heavy skillet. Over medium high heat, sauté until shallots are soft and translucent.
Add the rice, basil, parsley and oregano to the shallots. Continue to cook over medium high for 4-5 minutes, stirring continuously until rice begins to slightly brown.
Add the wine to the skillet and continue to cook, stirring continuously, until wine is absorbed.
Begin to add the chicken stock to the skillet 1/2 cup at a time. Continue stirring after each addition until stock is absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time.
Once all of the stock has been absorbed, add the cheese. Stirring to combine. Remove from heat.
Evenly divide the risotto between 4 serving bowls. Shave black truffle on top of the risotto.