Risotto col Radicchio Rosso
Note: One of the best uses to which one can put radicchio, the intriguingly bitter red Italian lettuce, is to make a risotto. Radicchio dissolves almost totally to fuse creamily with the rice, and its original bitterness is repharased by the cooking to emerge with a softer, gentler accent. Be prepared for a transformation in color: The raw red turns to a subdued, elegant black.
1 pound radicchio
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 tablespoons butter
One-half cup chopped onion
5 cups meat homemade meat broth, or 2 bouillon cubes dissolved in 5 cups water, or three-fourths cup
Canned meat broth diluted with 4 and one-half cups water
One and one-half cups Italian Arborio rice
One-half cup dry white wine
Two-thirds cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Black pepper in a grinder
1. Detach the radicchio leaves from the stem and wash them well in cold water. Drain and pat thoroughly dry in a cloth or with paper towels. Bunch up 5 or 6 leaves at a time and cut them into skinny strips about one-fourth inch wide.
2. Choose a heavy-bottomed pot and put in the vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons of the butter, and the chopped onion. Turn on the heat to medium.
3. While the onion is cooking, put the broth or bouillon in a saucepan and bring it to a low simmer.
4. When the onion becomes colored a pale gold, add the radicchio. Cook, turning from time to time until the radicchio is tender.
5. Add the rice and turn it over 2 or 3 times until it is well coated. Add the wine, stir, and let the wine bubble away for 1 to 2 minutes.
6. Add 1 or 2 ladlefuls of simmering broth, turn up the heat to high, and stir constantly, wiping away the rice from the bottom and side of the pot. When the broth has evaporated, add another ladleful and stir constantly, never letting the rice stick to any part of the pot. Repeat the procedure, adding more broth as it evaporates and stirring steadily, until the rice is done: firm but cooked through, without a chalky center. At the end there should be just enough liquid left in the pot to give the risotto a slightly runny consistency. Should you run out of broth while cooking, continue with plain water.
7. Off the heat, stir in the grated cheese and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, mixing for 1 and one-half to 2 minutes. Add salt and liberal grindings of pepper, stir briefly, and serve at once.