Jamie's Dinners: Sweet Vanilla Risotto with Poached Fruit and Chocolate
In other words, posh rice pudding. This is a lovely dessert, and if you like rice pudding you'll enjoy this risotto-style twist on an old favorite.
In the original recipe, Oliver makes this dessert with peaches, and suggests strawberries, apricots, or rhubarb as alternatives. Since it's October and peaches are a distant memory, I used strawberries. The berries, lightly poached in orange juice, provided a nice acidic counterpoint to the sweet, somewhat bland vanilla risotto.
To serve this dessert, you plate it up, garnish it with the poached fruit and poaching liquid, and then push a few chunks of bittersweet chocolate into the hot risotto to melt. I recommend using the strongest-flavored, bitterest chocolate you can get your hands on. I tried a couple different kinds of bittersweet chocolate, and the bitterest one was the winner: Valrhona Le Noir Extra Amer (85 % cocoa). Its bitterness provides a lovely contrast to the sweet rice and tangy berries.
The two chocolates, white and bittersweet, are what will make or break this dessert, so don't skimp on quality. The bittersweet chocolate needs to be at least 70% cocoa solids. Poor-quality white chocolate has a dreadful, insipid flavor, so make sure you find one that's made with real cocoa butter. Not, heaven forbid, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil! Yuck.
The risotto took longer to cook than the recipe specified. Oliver says to cook it at a low simmer for about 16 or 17 minutes, but my rice was still somewhat hard at that point. It took an additional 10 minutes for the rice to be soft and creamy. I also needed an additional 1/2 cup of milk. Rice can vary in how quickly it cooks and how much liquid it can absorb, so test your grains as they cook, and add more liquid if necessary.
The recipe below contains the instructions for poached peaches. If you're using different fruit, it may need to be cooked for a shorter time. I gently poached about 1 pound of sliced strawberries for only 3 to 4 minutes, enough to soften them slightly but not to turn them into strawberry sauce. The fruit should still hold its shape and have a fresh taste.
For clarity's sake, I've modified the ingredients list somewhat from the way it's given in Jamie's Dinners. The poaching ingredients are listed separately from the risotto ingredients, divided ingredients are noted, and the amount of wine is specified as 8 oz., rather than Oliver's "wineglass."
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: about 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
4 Tbsp sugar
1/2 of a cinnamon stick
Zest and juice of 1 orange
2 vanilla beans
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
2 Tbsp sugar
8 oz. white wine
3 1/2 to 4 cups whole milk
3 3/4 oz. good-quality white chocolate, grated or chopped
3 3/4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), broken into chunks
Fresh mint leaves for garnish, optional
In a small saucepan, combine the 4 Tbsp sugar, the cinnamon stick, the orange juice and zest, and the fruit. Cover and slowly simmer until the fruit has softened (about 10 to 15 minutes for peaches or sliced rhubarb, 4 to 5 minutes for apricots, 3 to 4 minutes for sliced strawberries). If using peaches or apricots, remove the skins and pits once softened, slice the fruit into large chunks, and return it to the poaching liquid. Remove the pan from heat and set aside until serving time.
Score the vanilla beans lengthwise and remove the seeds with a knife (reserve the bean pods for another use). In a large, high-sided, thick-bottomed pot, melt 4 Tbsp of butter over medium-low heat. Add the vanilla seeds and stir, 1 minute. Add the rice and sugar, then turn the heat up to medium and add the wine, stirring constantly. Once the wine has cooked almost away, begin adding the milk, about 1/3 of a cup at a time. After each addition, stir well. Keep the rice on a slow, constant simmer and add more milk as soon as each addition is nearly absorbed. Stir as often as possible. Once the rice has been cooking for about 15 minutes, begin testing the grains for doneness. Continue to cook, adding more milk, until the rice is cooked through and creamy. This could take up to 30 minutes. When rice is done and milk has all been absorbed (3 1/2 to 4 cups, depending on the rice), remove from the heat and add the white chocolate and the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter. Stir to combine, then cover and let sit for a minute.
To serve: Discard the cinnamon stick from the fruit poaching liquid. Spoon the hot risotto onto dessert plates or shallow bowls. Push a few chunks of bittersweet chocolate into the center of the risotto. Place the fruit slices or chunks around the perimeter of the plate, and spoon some of the poaching liquid around as well. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired. By the time you're ready to eat the risotto, the chocolate will be melted. Delicious!