Italy & Daring Cooks Challenge: Risotto, Veal Rollatini, Italian-Style Swiss Chard, and Rosemary Foccacia


This month's Daring Cook's Challenge was risotto, hosted by Eleanor and Jess of Melbournefoodgeek and Jessthebaker. The only requirements were that you make your own stock (whether it be beef, chicken, or some sort of vegetable-based stock), and your own base (which consists of wine, rice, oil, cheese, and butter). Other than that, you could make any one of a billion risotto recipes found the world over. I am not particularly adventurous when trying new things--I don't improvise much and I stick to the recipe. In this case, I think that served me well. I wound up making a Porcini Mushroom Risotto.

The Daring Cook's Challenge coincided nicely (again) with my 50 Countries Challenge. There are some countries you just need to do up right, and Italy is one of them. What I really wanted to do for my Italian 50 Countries Challenge was make Rosemary Foccacia. After all...what would be better than Rosemary Foccacia and Porcini Mushroom Risotto?

I'll tell you what's better: Veal! Veal that's been stuffed with chopped mozzarella, prosciutto, and parmesan, pan-fried, baked, and then served with mushrooms that have been sauteed in white wine and chicken stock. And then maybe served with a side of spicy, garlicky, olive oily swiss chard. And a nice glass of Chianti (the fancy imported kind with a cool customs sticker on it).

Now, that's an Italian meal.

Did I get carried away? Yes. A bit. I made this meal for when our dear friend Gwen came down for a visit, and so justified away the ridiculous expense and labor intensiveness. The meal took 4 hours to prepare, used every skillet I own (as well as most of the sauce pans), and absorbed every single place I had to set down said pots and pans. This may (or may not) have been helped by the fact that Gwen was making me fantastic brandy old fashioned's throughout the process.

However, I think I needed those drinks, because the focaccia was a raging disaster. It was less me than the recipe. I used a cookbook called "Antipasto" (though, I don't remember the authors/publishers at the moment). It is a book full of (you guessed it) antipasto. I thought that surely, this book full of Italian food would know how to make focaccia. I was wrong. 4 cups of flour to 1 cup of milk and 1/4 cup olive oil made a dry, brain-like, unkneadable mass that was supposed to be "smooth and elastic." I'm no novice at bread making, so this shouldn't have been a problem. Alas, it was. There was simply too much flour. The bread ended up tasting like nothing but flour. It was very, very gross. So gross that I refuse to post the recipe. But, here is a picture.

Disastrous Foccacia. Looks better than it was, believe me.

The rest of the meal was spectacular. The best part was the veal--something I recommend you run out and make this instant. The risotto was a triumph of mushrooms and patience--lusciously rich and creamy. The swiss chard was flavorful and added the non-fatty nutrients the meal needed. A good Chianti rounded it all out. I almost forgot about the sad foccacia. Oh well. Next time.

Porcini Mushroom Risotto
(from Simply Recipes)
-4 Tbsp butter
-2 cups porcini mushrooms (**NOTE: I used two 1 ounce bags of dried porcini mushrooms--save the liquid you rehydrate in, it will serve as your stock!)
-2/3 cup cognac, vermouth, or dry white wine
-3/4 cup heavy cream
-7 cups chicken stock* (**NOTE: Use your rehydrating water as stock! I'd saved the stock from when I rehydrated "Exotic" mushrooms for my Japchae, so I used that to supplement the 7 cups needed for this recipe)
-1 Tbsp olive oil
-1/3 cup of peeled and minced shallots (OR 1/3 cup of yellow or white onion, finely chopped)
-1 3/4 cups arborio rice
-1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
-Salt and freshly ground black pepper
-2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
*Note: If cooking gluten-free, use homemade stock or gluten-free packaged stock.

1. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté about 5 minutes (if using chanterelles, dry sauté first for a minute or two and let the mushrooms cook in their own juices before adding the butter). Add cognac, bring to a boil, and reduce liquid by half, about 3-4 minutes. Lower heat to medium, add cream, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

2. Bring stock to a simmer in a saucepan.

3. In a deep, heavy, medium sized saucepan, heat oil and remaining butter on medium low. Add shallots or onions and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat with butter and oil. Add simmering stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring enough to keep the rice from sticking to the edges of the pan. Wait until the stock is almost completely absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup. This process will take about 20 minutes. The rice should be just cooked and slightly chewy.

4. Stir in the mushroom mixture and the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with parsley.

-Servings: 6
-Calories: Don't know, don't want to know.

Veal Rollatini (from The Italian Chef)
-1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, chopped
-1/4 pound prosciutto, chopped
-1/4 cup freshly grated parmagiano-reggiano cheese
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
-1 pound veal scallopine, thinly sliced and pounded
-1/4 cup olive oil
-flour spread on a plate for dredging
-3 tablespoons of butter
-1/2 pound of mushrooms
-1/2 cup white wine
-1/2 cup chicken stock
-salt and sepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine mozarrella, prosciutto, parmagiano-reggiano and parsley in a bowl and mix well. Place a tablespoon of the mixture on each scalloppine, roll up and fasten with toothpicks.

2. Heat olive oil in a large oven-proof saute pan over medium-high heat. Dredge the rolled up veal in flour, shaking off the excess and place in pan. Brown quickly on all sides, then place the pan in the oven. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, turning once, until veal is cooked through and the cheese is melted.

3. Remove pan from oven, transfer veal to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Drain the oil from the pan, place over medium heat and add the butter and mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms until they begin to release their juices.

4. Add the white wine to the pan, and scrape loose with a wooden spoon all browning residues on the bottom and sides of the pan. Cook until the wine is reduced by half, then add the chicken broth and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Return the veal to the pan and cook until sauce is reduced by half and thickened. Transfer the rollatini to warm serving plates, spoon sauce and mushrooms over and serve.

Servings: 4
Calories: Seriously, don't even think about it.

Italian-Style Swiss Chard (from
-1 bunch Swiss chard (**Note: I used two bunches--just the leaves, not the stems--with the same measurements given here, and it worked great. It was *just* enough for three servings, believe it or not!)
-1 cup water
-1 tablespoon salt
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
-1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
-salt to taste

1. Wash the Swiss chard and cut into 1 inch strips. Separate the thick and tough stalk sections from the upper leafy strips.

2. Bring the water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil in a large saucepan.

3. Cook the stalk sections in the salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Stir in the leafy strips and cook until the leaves are wilted and the stalks are fork tender, about 6 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4. Heat the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a large skillet over medium heat until aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the drained Swiss chard, cook and stir for 2 minutes; season with salt to taste.

Servings: 3-4
Calories: 75, Fat: 6.9g

Verdict: Greg was a touch on the tipsy side by the time dinner was served, but he declared Italy the supreme ruler of the 50 Country Challenge. I'd have to agree. It was pretty faboo.


Lo said...

I'd have to concur -- that risotto looks fabulous (and it sounds delicious)! Of course, the veal... now that's a masterpiece.

Josh said...
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