valentine's cooking lesson with GRANA PADANO

I've been teaching classes at The Brooklyn Kitchen in Williamsburg for the last 10 months. Last night we hosted a special hands-on italian cooking lesson sponsored by GRANA PADANO cheese. Here is my recipe for a valentine's themed beet risotto. Buon Apetito e Buon Amore!

Beetroot Risotto with Grana Padano Frico  (serves 8)
3 c. rice for risotto - either carnaroli or arborio (80g per person)
2 large white onions, small dice
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. white wine
7 c. vegetable or chicken stock, hot
4 large red beets, scrubbed clean
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 c. Grana Padano cheese, grated
sea salt
black pepper
1 candy-cane or golden yellow beet, raw but scrubbed clean

Roasting beets
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Rub the beets with olive oil then wrap up in packets of aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 45 minutes-1 hour depending on their size until a knife can easily pierce through. Open packets to let steam out. While wearing plastic gloves, rub the skins off with paper towels.  

Grana Padano Frico (makes approximately 20 pieces)
1/2 lb. Grana Padano cheese
freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch of fresh thyme, washed and picked

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet tray with a piece of parchment paper then grate cheese into small piles without touching each other about 2 inches wide. Grind black pepper and sprinkle a little bit of fresh thyme leaves over each pile. Bake at 375 for 7 minutes until cheese melts and spreads out to form thin cheese chips. Remove the oven and cool to room temperature. Carefully remove frico from the tray without breaking and use as a garnish. Reserve the rest of the picked thyme for the risotto.

Beetroot Risotto
In a dutch oven or wide skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sweat until softened and translucent. Stiring continuously with a wooden spoon. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable stock in a separate pot equipped with a ladle. Bring stock to a boil then turn it off. Add all of the rice to your risotto pan and stir to coat with the oil and onions. Toast for a few minutes then add the white wine and deglaze the pan. Scrape the rice from the bottom of the pan and allow the wine to absorb into rice and burn off.

Lower the heat to just simmering. Next, we start adding a little bit of broth at a time. Add 1 ladle of broth to the rice and stir continuously until the liquid is absorbed. It's important to keep stirring and not be distracted with other things. As the rice soaks up the liquid, add another ladle and repeat as needed. The whole process should take about 20 minutes but you can check by tasting a grain of rice every now and again. Add the chopped red beets to the risotto about half-way through and continue cooking the rice. The rice should stick to your teeth (al dente) but not feel hard. It will be tender as the risotto becomes creamy.

When you reach the desired doneness of the rice, turn off the heat and finish with butter and grated cheese for the "mantecatura" step. Stir in the butter cubes and make sure they melt all the way through. Finish with grated cheese and stir to combine into a nice creamy risotto. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve immediately and garnish with paper-thin sliced raw candy-cane or golden beet, the Grana Padano frico and fresh thyme.