Sunday, December 01, 2013

Leftovers: Turkey Risotto

I'm a big fan of Michael Ruhlman's work for a lot of reasons. His recipes are very solid without being overdone, his writing is good, and his love and reverence of food comes through in everything he writes. What I love best about him is his style of writing about food: whereas most writers are content to put out books describing techniques or piles of recipes, much of Ruhlman's work comes in the form of essays explaining the larger ideas of cooking. The recipes themselves, though excellent, seem almost an after-thought to the prose.

There's only one area in which I really disagree with him, and it's not so much that he's wrong as much as it is he is limited in his knowledge: his reverence for veal stock. Again, it's not that I disagree with him, but rather that there is an alternative to the many wonders of veal stock that doesn't require the cost or ethical conundrums of veal bones: white chicken stock made in a pressure cooker.

I've written about this technique before, but it bears repeating: the higher temperatures achieved when using a pressure cooker not only bring out additional flavors in the meat and aromatics, but they also draw out the collagen from bones far better than simmering in a regular pot. I've spent hours simmering bones in a stock pot, only to have them still hard when I take them out. 2 hours in a pressure cooker? The bones crumble to dust under my pinkie.

The collagen from the bones is what turns into gelatin in the stock, which practically becomes a jello form after a night in the fridge. The stock you make in a pressure cooker will add far more of the luxurious mouthfeel and richness to your dish than anything storebought or made in a regular pot. And, of course, these are the main qualities that Ruhlman extols about veal stock, but you can have it far more easily with the pressure cooker.

All of which is a long way of saying that when I looked at the turkey carcass Thursday night, I didn't have to think very hard about what I was going to do with it. I used the same technique I always use for the chicken stock, though instead of the regular herbs, I used the leftover fresh sage leaves to help make it stand out a bit more from the standard fare. And, of course, what else would I do with homemade stock but turn it into risotto?

Risotto scares a lot of people, but we make it often enough that it's become second-nature to throw together. In fact, we make it so often that I'm even able to buy it by the big bag. I keep the bag stored in the pantry while I have a smaller container on hand in the kitchen for day to day use. It's also nice being able to weigh the rice rather than measure--Arborio rice is 179g/cup by my measure, which lets me portion it out into a prep bowl quickly and easily with my digital scale.

I've tried a number of recipes through the years, but found that (unsurprisingly) Alton Brown's is the best to start with. I don't always include the asparagus and mushrooms, but even all by itself it's a great simple side. For tonight, I just replaced the chicken stock with the fresh turkey stock made from Thanksgiving's carcass, and it definitely had a richer, more well-rounded flavor than what we typically get even from the pressure-cooker chicken stock.

One tip I've adopted from AB's recipe is the use of a saucier for mixing the risotto. The nice thing is that it gives you more surface area for the water to evaporate, which helps to keep the risotto from overheating. It gives you more space to keep stirring without having to worry about corners not being properly mixed. The saucier is good, obviously, for sauces, but really for anything the requires constant stirring and mixing while in the pan. I also used it for the pumpkin pie filling (twice this week, in fact).

Big success all around, though I think I'll use the remaining quart of stock for some kind of soup. Then again, there's still another half of Thursday's turkey carcass left to play around with...

No comments: