Thursday, February 12, 2009

Recession Special Recipe: Miso Risotto

Welcome to the first installment of the Recession Special Recipe. As I mentioned in a previous post, I'll be taking pricey and delicious dishes from restaurants and deconstructing them so they're easy, and above all affordable for all of us to make at home. The first recipe is my version of a dish served at David Chang's newest offering, Ko, the twelve seat restaurant said to be revolutionizing the food scene. I recently splurged with a meal there, and have to say that it's one of the best I've ever had. There are no favors at Ko, where reservations can only be made at 10 am via computer, and every seating is booked by 10:01. Luck and determination are the only things that can buy you a seat that's (in my humble opinion) well worth the effort. Twelve lucky folks are sat for a 3 to 4 hour lunch, as are another twelve for dinner. Fortunately, all twelve seats are arranged around the open kitchen so that in between courses (all 17 of them) you're able to sneak a peek at how each of three chefs makes a dish. There are no waiters or busboys and each dish is served via chef, crossing the threshold from kitchen to table. The kitchen is quiet as the meal is made, all swift motions and silent communication among chefs. The atmosphere however, is anything but austere as a combination of classic and modern rock blares over speakers while the hostesses refill water glasses with ninja-like stealth.

Although there were many dishes worthy copying, this one was by far the simplest served that day, packed with flavor and perfectly balanced. It also had the least expensive ingredients and seemed the easiest to replicate. It was a miso risotto topped with crispy guanciale and grilled maitaki mushrooms. The miso was extra creamy, with a smooth sweet-and-salty flavor that contrasted really well with the crunchy texture of the guanciale (an unsmoked bacon-like cut of pork from the jowl). The guanciale's smoky flavor was only enhanced by the pillowy soft, lightly charred grilled mushrooms. I decided that to bring the price point down on the dish, the guanciale should be replaced by thick cut bacon. After all, the point is to provide that smoky pork goodness, a little fat, and lots of crunch. The only real sacrifice of ingredients here is in replacing the maitaki mushrooms with another type. I used regular button mushrooms, but almost any kind will do. An excellent replacement would be oyster mushrooms, which are also somewhat pricey, but are actually a little cheaper this time of year, so if you feel the urge to splurge, that's where I would do it.

Figuring out the recipe (or my closest approximation) was surprisingly easy. After some research I found out that Ming Tsai (one of my favorite East-meets-West chefs) has already done an excellent miso risotto, and his recipe answered some of my main questions about how exactly to go about making the rice 
(do I stir in the miso paste at the end? Do I use miso broth?), my only real point of confusion. After that I just dry grilled the mushrooms on my grill pan (it's no open flame like in the restaurant, but I tried), and rendered the bacon, which I cut into nice chunky pieces. After I assembled it all, I drizzled the dish with a little bit of rendered pork fat, because I figure, what's better than a little fat during these lean times? Here's the recipe I came up with, I hope it feels like an indulgence, it certainly did for me. 

Miso Risotto

4 cups warm low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 Tbsp light miso paste (shiro miso)
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 shallot, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup shiao hsing wine or sherry
2 Tbsp malt vinegar
2 button mushrooms, sliced
4 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp butter

1. Dissolve the miso paste in hot broth and set aside.

2. Heat oil, shallot and garlic in a large non-stick skillet and sweat until softened. Add rice and toast until white and opaque. Add wine and vinegar, cooking until absorbed.

3. Add enough broth/miso mixture to just cover rice (about 2 ladlefuls) and stir until absorbed. Repeat until rice is cooked through and creamy.

4. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan or small non-stick skillet and grill mushrooms until browned and charred. Remove to a plate and set aside. Cook bacon in the same pan until crispy. Remove to a plate and reserve pan drippings. 

5. Plate risotto and top with bacon and mushrooms. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the reserved bacon drippings and serve. Enjoy!


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