We have spent every Saturday night away since June 18th and so we decided that this Saturday called for a much needed, in-home, date. This choice also meant that we could take on a cooking challenge.
New York is in the midst of Restaurant Week making all the out of reach restaurants briefly reachable. Thus, a delicious lunch at Tocqueville became the inspiration for our newest endeavor.
Lunch consisted of green and white asparagus with a white truffle vinaigrette and a risotto with ricotta, brussels sprouts and baby artichokes and that’s what we would make. We ended up leaving out the baby artichokes, but we recommend both choices if you ever find yourself there.
We decided to make our own ricotta, for starters. Amanda’s mom is always making it and telling us that it is easy, but we never believed her until now. We called her for the recipe and she gave us the one she uses from Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking cookbook. You can also find the recipe here.
(makes 2 cups)
2 quarts whole milk
2 cups buttermilk
Line a colander with cheesecloth that should be folded over 4-6 times. Place the colander in the sink.
Pour whole milk and buttermilk (don’t skimp on the fat, we hear it just isn’t the same) into a pot and stir frequently to keep it from burning onto the bottom of the pot. The curds will come to the top of the surface as the mixture heats. Stop stirring when the mixture starts steaming.
Turn off the heat when the curds and whey separate. If you have a candy thermometer this will happen when the mixture heats up to 175 or 180 degrees. If you don’t have a candy thermometer (we didn’t and it came out just fine) then just look for the separation of the curds and whey. When you see thick white curds with a grayish liquid below it then the curds are ready to be scooped out.
Scoop the curds into the cheesecloth allowing them to drain. Dump the whey.
After five minutes pull up the edges of the cheesecloth and twist them together to make the ricotta into a ball(ish) shape. Let it sit this way for fifteen minutes. The goal here is to bring the curds together gently. Do not squeeze the cheesecloth.
After fifteen minutes untie the cloth, store in an airtight container, and refrigerate.
We prepped the asparagus by cutting off the bottoms and made the vinaigrette before starting the risotto so that we could easily throw in the asparagus when we knew the risotto was getting close.
Our vinaigrette is imperfect as of yet, but so far it goes like this:
White Truffle Vinaigrette
5 tbsp white truffle oil
3 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp mustard
(2 egg yolks, optional)
The trick, we think is to add the oil last and do so very very slowly while whisking. This will cause the mixture to emulsify.
If you want to add the egg yolks, but you are uncomfortable with the thought of eating raw eggs, you can soft boil the eggs (4 minutes in boiling water) and then separate the yolks into the vinaigrette.
Next we started the risotto. Risotto has been one of our go to dishes, almost from the very start – so we’ve got a soft spot for it. We used to follow Mark Bittman’s recipe for mushroom risotto from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (an amazing cookbook gifted to us by our amazing friends).
This time we used our taste buds as guides and came up with this recipe.
Risotto with Homemade Ricotta and Brussels Sprouts
1 ½ cups arborio rice
7-8 cups of vegetable broth (can be substituted with chicken broth)
½ lb of brussels sprouts
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups ricotta
1 cup parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
Start by heating up the broth in a sauce pan. We were introduced to Better than Bouillon by one of Zach’s best friends and we absolutely love it. Keep the broth simmering on very low heat.
Slice garlic into thin slivers and set aside. Chop an onion into ½ inch pieces. Cut off the bottoms of the brussels sprouts and shred. We used a food processor with what, for lack of a better word we will call a shaving blade, but you could probably grate them or slice thinly with a knife. Set aside.
Heat butter in a large, deep dish frying pan. Add the onions and cook until they soften, about 4 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn.
Add the risotto to the onion mixture and make sure it gets coated with butter. Stir in thoroughly over medium heat for about 3 minutes.
At this point, begin ladling the broth into the risotto mixture. Add about one ladle at a time and stir. This phase is somewhat high maintenance because you need watch to make sure that the liquid never cooks off entirely. Ladle in another scoop of broth when the liquid gets low to maintain a constant broth presence. About 15 minutes into the process add half of the brussels sprouts. Add an extra ladle-full of broth this time. Then add half of the garlic.
Stir and ladle intermittently for another 15 minutes or so and then add the rest of the brussels sprouts, the remaining garlic, and half of the parmesan. Cut the ricotta into ½ inch cubes and set aside.
Boil salt water in a separate pan. Add the asparagus and cook for 3-5 minutes. It should turn bright green, but be careful not to let it overcook. Remove from the boiling water and cool with cold water to stop the cooking. Pour on the vinaigrette and serve.
As the risotto gets close to done, in the last five minutes or so, add the remaining parmesan and the ricotta. Incorporate both cheeses allowing for chunks of ricotta throughout the mixture.