I was so excited when it was announced that this month’s challenge was risotto! I guess it wasn’t really that much of a challenge for me because I make risotto a lot, but I decided to make it interesting by doing something I’ve never done before – a sweet dessert risotto. Fortunately risotto is naturally gluten free, so there were no modifications that had to be made on that end. Because one of the requirements for the risotto was to make our own stock in which we cooked the risotto, I decided to poach some pears and use a mixture of poaching syrup and milk as my “stock”. The risotto did not end up too sweet – I only used a cup of reduced poaching liquid because I did not want it sickly sweet – I also added on top some homemade pistachio cream. Yes, this portion serving was huge (I halved it in the recipe)! We split it for dinner, haha.
The mix ended up working out really well. I knew pears and chocolate went together well, and I knew that pistachios and chocolate went together well, but I had never had all three in the same dish before. I think the only thing that would have really improved upon this would have been to make the poaching syrup with honey rather than plain sugar – but maybe that would be introducing too many flavors into the dish, I’m not sure. This current result was quite tasty – I loved the contrast of the rich dark chocolate risotto with the light sweetness of the pears and the pistachio cream. It was a contrast not just in flavor but also texture, which made for a really great overall impression on the tongue.
I loved all of the room for creativity with this challenge – I think it is so neat when we are all given one technique and then just told to run with it and put our own personal twist on a dish. It’s so exciting to see how unique everyone’s creations really are! I would definitely make this dessert again, though probably in a smaller amount – I made way too much. When something is this tasty I don’t really mind though – but risotto, poached pears and pistachio cream is not something one can easily bring into work and give to your coworkers – it’s not like trying to transport muffins haha. So smaller batches are definitely better when it comes to risotto. I’ll let you decide accordingly how much you think you should make – but this dessert would definitely impress if you have company over!
The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.
Ingredients (for 4 servings):
For the poached pears –
2 bosc pears
3 cups water
1.5 cups sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1/3 cinnamon stick
For the risotto –
.5 cup arborio rice
1 tbs. butter
2.5 cups milk
2 tbs. cocoa powder
40g 70% dark chocolate
For garnish –
1. Peel, core and halve pears and place them in water with lemon to keep them from browning.
2. In a medium pot, add water, sugar, cinnamon stick, and 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped. Use the actual vanilla beans for the risotto, but the leftover bean for the poaching. Bring to a boil and dissolve the sugar, then bring back to just below a simmer.
3. Poach the pears until soft and able to pierce easily with a fork – about 15 minutes depending on the size, ripeness, etc. Remove from poaching liquid.
4. Turn up the heat again on the poaching liquid and reduce it to about 1/2 volume. This will make it really sweet.
5. In a large wide skillet, melt butter and add the arborio rice on a medium heat- saute for a few minutes until the rice is a little golden and translucent. On a separate burner, heat up milk, just to steaming point. Make sure to stir it every few minutes.
6. Add in about a half cup of the poaching syrup, and stir often so that rice does not burn. Gradually add milk as needed, stirring in a figure eight motion, until rice is plump and soft. Stir in cocoa powder. When rice is fully done, remove from heat and stir in the chocolate, which will melt quickly.
7. To assemble, add chocolate risotto to a bowl, then top with poached pears, and garnish with pistachio cream, chopped pistachios and chocolate. Enjoy!