And so we here at the Circle B Kitchen have now come to our favorite part of winter…the part where we leave it. Yes, people, we have made our semi-annual pilgrimage to the Circle B Kitchen West and are basking in the warmth and beauty that only the Central Coast of California has the nerve to produce this time of year. We’ve had day after day of chilly mornings, warm afternoons, sunny blue skies, lush green hills, poppies, daffododils and plum trees in bloom…color!! We’ve traded in the sepia tones of our Midwest winter for some 3-D technicolor and it’s pretty awesome. And although it seems totally wrong to be this sunny and this gorgeous in February, I’ll be the last one to pass judgment. Sometimes wrong can just be so right.
And as long as we’re talking about things that are right, here’s something that’s so right I have no idea why they’re not a staple in every restaurant and kitchen in the universe. I can tell you right now that I’m officially a bit of a freak for these little risotto cakes.
That don’t actually have risotto in them.
I know. That sort of seemed strange to me too. But no, the risotto connection lies in our use of arborio rice, which is simply boiled and drained and combined with eggs, cheese, chives, etc. and then coated with panko breadcrumbs and pan-seared to golden deliciousness. But that doesn’t even begin to tell the story of how all of those ingredients come together to create this delicately scrumptious little risotto cake. You really must find that out for yourself.
And from the gilding the lily department, I got the idea to create a nice lemon-y aioli to dab on top just for fun. So I’m thinking that if you’re looking for that extra special something to serve your valentine this year, these little chive risotto cakes may be just the thing to win someone’s heart. Here’s the recipe…
CHIVE RISOTTO CAKES WITH LEMON AIOLI
Recipe adapted from The Barefoot Contessa
The original recipe seemed to lack flavor and did not hold together real well, so I made a few changes to the recipe which solved both problems. Firstly, I added ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese which added great flavor and also acted as a binder. To get the most flavor, be sure to use Italian fontina cheese. The Danish, Swedish or domestic varieties just don’t have enough flavor for this recipe. A couple of other tips to make these turn out perfectly… make sure you let the rice drain completely before adding it to the bowl. If the rice is too wet, it will dilute the flavors and make the cakes soggy. In the end, I decided that these needed an acidic sauce of some kind and created a lemon aioli which added a perfect citrus note t oour creamy little cakes. One more thing... I think that if you love chives as much as I do, we should add another tablespoon or two of them.
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 extra-large eggs (I used large eggs and they came out fine)
½ cup grated (not shredded) parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives (or more, if you like)
1 1/2 cups grated Italian fontina cheese (not Swedish or Danish)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
Good olive oil or grapeseed oil
Lemon aioli for serving:
My homemade mayonnaise (or 1 cup of your favorite brand)
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Zest of a lemon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
For the Risotto Cakes:
Bring a large (4-quart) pot of water to a boil and add 1/2 tablespoon salt and the Arborio rice. Stir and then reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The grains of rice will be quite soft. Drain the rice in a sieve and run under cold water until cool. Drain well (at least 10 minutes).
Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, parmesan cheese, chives, fontina, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the cooled, drained rice and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, until firm.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Form balls of the rice mixture using a standard (2 1/4-inch) ice-cream scoop or a large spoon. Pat the balls into patties 3 inches in diameter and 3/4-inch thick (or smaller if you’d like to serve them as an appetizer.
Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Roll each pattie in the panko crumbs and set on a wire rack.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the patties in the hot oil and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned.
Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Continue cooking in batches, adding oil as necessary, until all the cakes are fried. Arrange on a serving platter and serve warm with the lemon aioli.
For the aioli:
Follow the instructions for my stick blender mayonnaise (or use 1 cup of your favorite store-bought brand).
Place the mayonnaise in a bowl and add the Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper and lemon zest. If you are using a store-bought mayonnaise, double the amounts of Dijon mustard and lemon juice. Stir to combine and refrigerate until ready to serve.