fennel and sausage risotto w/ sake

I wanted to talk about how much I love risotto and while some people moan and groan about how much time and stirring is involved, I love that it is a task that forces me to stand and be patient. To focus on the task that is at hand. A dish that when you cook brings all your senses into sharp focus. The smell of onions browning in olive oil and butter. Then the layers of rice, wine and stock bubbling over the stove. How you can see the transformation of rice turn from hard to creamy, like velvet. Alchemy.

I wanted to talk about how you shouldn't be afraid of making risotto. It can take a while to master but it is sooooo worth it.

I wanted to talk about the quite pleasure of holding a warm bowl of risotto in a pair of chilly hands on a rainy night. How a simple bowl of rice can warm your body and soothe a stressed mind.

I wanted to tell you about my EUREKA moment in the kitchen. How when I discovered I ran out of white wine and decided to use sake instead. Because sake is made out of rice so it couldn't do any harm, right?

I wanted to write about how when the sake hit the hot saucepan with the rice and onions, it made the most incredible smell, better than white wine and how I knew it was going to be the best risotto I had ever made. That I will probably never use wine again in my risotto.

I wanted to tell you I'm still dreaming about this risotto.

Fennel and Sausage Risotto w/ Sake: (adapted from Food & Wine Magazine Feb. 2009)

1 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, meat crumbled
1 large fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced
5 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 small onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
Pinch of saffron threads
1/2 cup sake
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the sausage and cook over high heat, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes longer. Cover and keep warm.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer; keep warm.

In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon of butter and 1/2 of olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, for 1 minute stirring constantly to thoroughly coat it with the fat. Crumble the saffron into the sake and add it to the rice. Cook, stirring until the wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until it is nearly absorbed between additions. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 20 minutes total. Season the risotto with salt and pepper. Stir in the sausage and fennel along with the cheese and butter. Serve immediately.


Sharon said...

Well done! I love all the interesting ingredients in this one dish. Sake in risotto? Can that be considered Italian Japanese fusion :)

The Yummy Mummy said...

Wow! If it wasn't after Midnight here, I'd make this Risotto and only with Sake.

Love your writing. Love your ingenuity. Love you.

Snooty Primadona said...

We adore risotto in this house almost as much as we like Sake! But frankly, I get a kick out of making it because it's some of the best bicep exercise I get, lol. Besides, we like it leftover & made into risotto cakes.

Yummy recipe...

Julia said...

Don't you love these serendipitous discoveries! I often use different wines/alcohol for different flavor risottos... Sherry for mushrooms, cognac for shrimp. It's fun to play around.

Mental P Mama said...

I love making risotto, I feel like I've had a nice facial when it's ready.

KitchenKiki said...

I LOVE Risotto. I make it when ever I get a chance.
I think I've made it with Sake, but remember what else. I may have to revisit that. I love the idea of rice wine and aborio rice.

My "A-Ha" moment was with Pernod. The smell was amazing, I wanted to stick my head in the pot. I use it in a recipe with sausage, spinach, tomatoes & goat cheese. It is a perennial favorite in my house.

asthmagirl said...

You know I'm a fool for risotto! You convinced me to take it on last year, and then afterwards told me all the bad things that could have happened, like having it "seize up"!

Thanks for the memory! This looks amazing!

jordan said...

Mmmmm....that looks soo creamy and good.

Lisa said...

What a great post! That is a beautiful bowl of risotto. The texture looks perfect. And I love that you used sake in it. I am a big fan of sake and am always looking for new ways to use it. Thanks!

DiaperPin Up Girl said...

There's always time for risotto. I learned to make it this past fall and it has become a staple around my house. My favorite right now is cauliflower and brie.

SaintTigerlily said...

You are BRILLIANT and amazing. What a terrific discovery! Years from now, when people scoff at the mere idea of using wine in risotto instead of sake we will all know that it was because of you...and we knew you when.

The Italians may freak out, but I've got your back.

noble pig said...

Nice save with the sake, not sure if I would have thought of that but I would have never run out of wine cause...uh...I have a lot.

But I will try with sake cause that's sitting around too.

Pam said...

Of course...sake!!!

Magpie said...

That sounds delicious. We are in a ham and peas risotto rut which we need to get out of.

Grace said...

i often wonder what all the complaining is about when it comes to risotto. it's totally worth the (minimal) effort involved. interesting and lovely dish!

melissa said...

It's been so long since I made it, and I still hadn't mastered it as of the last attempt. I can never think of what to put in it, which is ridiculous, since you can put anything in it. But Italian sausage never crossed my mind. Calro's here I come. I will try this, I will. Thanks babe.

White on Rice Couple said...

Holy mother of sake! Of course! What a great discovery. With the brightness from the fennel plus sausage making everything better. F'in brillant. I think I'm channeling ECM 400 miles away. I just bought some sausage this morning, we have fennel to pick in the garden, and I went to a Japanese Food and Sake Festival this last Thursday and am now on a sake high (had to have some fun while Diane was in the Bahamas!) Impeccable timing my dear Evil Chef Mom! Todd.

Mayberry Magpie said...

Wow, if anybody could make me love risotto it would be you!

I eat a lot of catered meals and one particular caterer whose food I consume frequently makes bad risotto. So I thought I didn't like it. But this post is so lovely, so entrancing, I'm going to have to make risotto myself -- your way.

Brilliant post!

Sara said...

This looks great, I just love fennel - I have three bulbs of it in the fridge right now! I like the use of sake, very unique.

MrOrph said...

Fennel? I've done that. Sausage? That too...but Sake? You go Krysta! That's just brilliant.

coffee and queso said...

Sounds wonderful--I love Italian sausage paired with oniony and cabbagey flavors!
And now I know what to do with that leftover Sake that my husband insisted he wanted and then never drank...

cook eat FRET said...

i haven't made risotto in ages and i'm not sure why. i am a huge fennel freak. the saki makes perfect sense. beautiful food.

Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary said...

Looks and sounds delicious. Sake was a brillant idea.

freefun0616 said...