Though I’m still full from the wonderfully delicious butternut squash gnocchi, it was time to move on to an even more decadent dish- Fontina-stuffed veal chops with Parmesan sweet pea risotto. In actuality, the ingredients in this dinner aren’t all that heavy- no butter, no cream- it’s not French!-but the method of preparation gives it an innate creaminess, no added fat required.
Italians have the Arabs to thank for the introduction of rice to their nation. The climate of the Mediterranean regions in Spain and Italy lends itself perfectly to growing short-grained rice, such as Arborio, the base of traditional risottos. According to The Essential Ingredient, it was in Milan where cooks used slow-cooking principles along with rich flavors, and spices to first create ‘Risotto alla Milanese,’ which is usually paired with osso bucco.
I love Risotto; thanks to my dad, we grew up in a ‘rice household.’ I always think of Tom Hanks justifying his son’s comment on potatoes by saying “We don’t see a lot of potatoes in this house. We’re rice men.” As a kid, we didn’t eat a lot of pasta or potatoes, but rice was there for every meal, so I was all about looking for a way to fun it up.
Despite the slow-cooking label, risotto can be made in 20 minutes, which I learned from Rachel Ray long ago when I first started cooking. I can’t say I got this recipe from any one source in particular. I sort of used the flavors I like and what I had on hand to make it up. There are gazillions of ways you can make this- I mean, it’s rice. Add whatever flavors suit your fancy.
Rather than osso bucco, I paired my risotto with Costolette all Fontina– Veal Chops with Fontina. This recipe comes from Valle d’Aosta, where Fontina is made. Creamy and mild, I could hardly keep myself from eating all of the fontina before I stuffed the veal.
A few confessions: As for my actual undertaking-they were supposed to be veal chops. My butcher did not have them. I had to use a veal shoulder that I somehow made into chop-like shapes that I could stuff. That’s why they didn’t come out so pretty. For purposes of this post, I’m putting the original recipe. It’s all the same but for the cut of meat that I used. Also, I went light on the cheese- I have a weird texture issue where I don’t like “hard cheese,” as in that not-cold-but-not-hot ooey-gooey cheese that seems sort of congealed. And I didn’t want that to happen and mess up my veal. That’s just me being weird, so if you try this, try it with the full amount of cheese.
For the Risotto:
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 small red onion
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
1 handful parsley, chopped
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup frozen green peas
Salt and pepper
1 TB olive oil
1. In a deep pot, heat the stock and water over medium low heat.
2. In a large, somewhat deep skillet , heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic to pan and saute to soften 3 to 4 minutes . Stir in the rice.
3. Cook the rice for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the wine and cook until evaporated. Add in the hot stock, a few ladles at a time, and stir for a minute with each addition, to develop the starch and the creamy aspect. Total cooking time will be about 18 minutes or so. Keep adding stock each time the pan starts to become dry at the edges.
4. When rice is cooked to al dente, where it just as a bit of a bite, stir in the lemon juice, the cheese and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
For the veal:
4 veal chops, bone in
8 thin slices Fontina
2 TB olive oil
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Slice a horizontal slit in the side of each chop. Place 2 slices of the fontina in each opening. Season each chop with salt and pepper.
3. Using a meat mallet, pound each chop to seal it together. You don’t want it to be too thin.
I do not own a meat mallet. I used a regular hammer and wax paper. Call me MacGyver
4. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan until almost smoking. Sear the chops on both sides until golden brown. Place them in the oven and continue cooking for 5 to 7 minutes for medium doneness.