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One of the beautiful things about risotto is that it's a blank canvas, in terms of both flavor and appearance. Nowhere is this more evident than in a plate of Veneto-style radicchio risotto, the chicory's crimson color and clean, bitter flavor infusing the rice. This dish is also a good reminder that it doesn't take much to make a delicious risotto, although I'll admit to getting a little fancy with my toppings here.
Any type of radicchio will work in this dish, whether it's the more spherical, slightly frilly variety called Chioggia that's common in the US, or the more oblong, plump, and tender leaves of the type called Trevisano. The photographs here show the former, but if you can find Trevisano, you can use it in this recipe exactly as written.
To enhance the purple color of the dish, I opt for red wine instead of white, though, once again, either will work in the recipe.
As for the process, I use Kenji's totally nontraditional approach to risotto here. The idea is to first rinse the rice in stock (either vegetable or chicken stock will work), which washes off its surface starches. Those starches are necessary to achieve the final texture of the dish, so we save that starchy liquid for later. But we don't want the starches on the rice during the toasting step, which, while critical for the risotto's final flavor, would reduce their thickening ability if we left them in.
Once the rice is toasted, I add the wine, followed by most of the starchy stock mixture. I bring it to a simmer, then cover and cook it for 10 minutes. The cool thing here is that because those starches were withheld from the toasting step, they're now much more effective thickeners. This means you don't have to do all that stirring in of small additions of stock, as you do with the traditional risotto method—it'll become smooth and creamy all on its own.
To finish, I stir in the shredded radicchio (adding it earlier would just cook the life out of it), along with the remaining bit of starchy liquid. Work in some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and you're done.
In the spirit of the vegan recipes we're publishing this month, it's worth noting that this recipe can easily be made vegan by using olive oil in place of butter, swapping chicken stock for vegetable, and omitting the cheese. A little white miso stirred in can help add some of the umami richness that the cheese would otherwise deliver.
To make this dish just a little fancier, I toast some crushed walnuts with minced fresh thyme leaves and olive oil, then scatter them on top along with crumbled blue cheese and more grated Parmesan. Once again, omitting the cheeses from the topping will keep the dish vegan.
The result is pure elegance, if I do say so myself. But feel free to take this idea and play with it as you see fit—the blank canvas is now yours.
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