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Nettle or Wild Greens Risotto
(recipe, Hank Shaw)
I created this dish for nettles, but it works well with any wild green. Blanched, nettles and most other wild greens will retain their emerald loveliness even after a good 15 minutes of cooking, which makes this dish visually stunning.
The basic structure of this riot to is pretty simple: risotto rice, cooked greens, butter, shallot, garlic, beef stock, and a little pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. You can use an onion instead of a shallot. You can even use vegetable or chicken stock if you want, although the flavor will be less robust.
- 1 cup nettles or other wild greens
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup risotto rice (Carnaroli, Arborio, or Vialone Nano)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 cups homemade beef or vegetable stock (if you use store-bought stock, only use 2 cups; otherwise, your risotto will be too salty)
- ¼ cup grated pecorino cheese
- Make the greens: Depending on what variety of greens you use, you will need four or five big handfuls to get the 1 cup of cooked greens. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a handful of salt. Fill a large bowl with ice water.
- Grab the nettles with tongs and add them to the boiling water. Stir around to submerge. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes for dwarf nettles, or 2 to 4 minutes for regular nettles. Amaranth, orache, lamb's-quarters, dandelion, or chicory greens need 3 to 4 minutes.
- Fish the greens out with a skimmer or the tongs and immediately dump them into the bowl of ice water. Once they are cool, drain in a colander, and then roll the greens in a clean tea towel. Twist one end of the towel one way and the other end, the other way (like a candy wrapper), squeezing out as much moisture as you can.
- Finally, chop the greens. Don't use a food processor, or you will get mush. The finer you chop, the smoother your risotto will be. Pick out any stray stems, which will show themselves after you chop the greens.
- Make the risotto: Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large heavy pot set over medium-high heat. When the butter stops frothing, add the shallot. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, then add the garlic and rice, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until the rice is well coated.
- Stir the salt and 1 cup of the stock into the rice and turn the heat to high. When it starts boiling, turn the heat down to medium and cook, stirring at least every minute or so, until the rice absorbs the stock. Repeat with a second cup of stock.
- When the second cup has been absorbed, add the greens and a third cup of stock. If you are using store-bought broth, switch to water so the risotto doesn't become too salty. Stir well to combine. From this point on, you should be stirring constantly to develop the creaminess in the risotto and to distribute the nettles evenly.
- When the third addition of liquid has been absorbed, taste the risotto. The rice should be al dente — soft enough so you want to eat it, but still a little firm. Add up to 1 more cup of stock or water, as you want the risotto to have a loose consistency. Add the cheese and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Stir everything well and let the butter and cheese melt in the risotto for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring often. Add salt to taste and serve at once.
If you have leftovers, you can stir a beaten egg into the risotto, form it into patties or balls, roll them in breadcrumbs, and fry them in olive oil for a traditional Italian treat called arancini.