Sunday, March 14, 2010

Eccola! Caramelized Onion & Fennel Risotto- Daring Cooks March 2010

Rice is the one grain that is a staple for almost every country in the world. And every country, sometimes even towns and villages, have their own size, style, traditions and ingredients for cooking rice. For Italy, one of the most famous rice dishes is risotto.
Caramelized Onions and Fennel Risotto
w/ Stinco d'Agnello
(Braised Lamb Shank)

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.

Risotto is classically cooked by slowly braising the Arborio style rice in a stock (and sometimes a soffrito of carrots, garlic, celery and onions.) and finishing with Parmigiano Reggiano. What starts out as a pan of solid white grains, gradually becomes a serving of opaque starch drenched creamy bites of deep flavor with a hint of cheese.

The additions of mushrooms, or artichokes, seafood, or perhaps green vegetables varies according to the regions of the country and it's local, fresh, available goodies. Seafood in Venice is a definite (also the gateway that rice was most likely brought to Europe.) In the more central parts of the country, it might be meats like pork, wild boar or lamb.

There are many opinions on how to best make risotto. Every Italian cook that I've ever asked has preached of "slow and steady" stirring on low heat, adding stock little at a time. There have been other cooks (ala Food Network, etc.) who have insisted that technically you don't have to even stir or watch so carefully. You can probably imagine where I fall on the subject. Lentamente, sempre!

Part of our challenge included making our own stock for the risotto. The recipe as listed includes making it with a whole chicken, however I usually buy a whole chicken and break it down for pieces to be used in meals,(saves a lot of money) then use the carcass for stock. That's what I did for this one, too. Here's my very simple stock recipe:
Simple Chicken Stock (ShowFoodChef)

1 onion chopped rough
2 carrots chopped rough
2 celery stalks chopped rough
handful of fresh parsley chopped large
bay leaf
fresh thyme sprigs
a few peppercorns
1 Chicken carcass broken into large pieces
(DO NOT ADD SALT, wait to add salt according to what you use the stock in)

Place all ingredients into a large stew pot and cover with cold water. Heat on High just to boiling, then turn heat down to low and simmer for 2-3 hours. Strain well into a bowl and cool, then chill overnight in refrigerator. The next day, skim off fat and strain stock again into containers for freezing or using.
Caramelized Onions and Fennel: (ShowFoodChef)

1 onion sliced length wise, thin
1 fennel bulb sliced into thin strips
1 tsp butter
2 tbls olive oil

Add all ingredients into a saute pan and cook on low/med for about 20 minutes, stirring often until a nice caramelized color is reached. Do not cook faster on higher heat as this will make the onions taste bitter.
These can be used in the risotto, but are also great as garnish on meats, or egg dishes.

Click HERE for a Recipe for Butternut Squash Risotto.

Chicken Stock as given by Daring Cooks:

1 large chicken 2-3 pounds about 1 kg
chicken bones 2-3 pounds 1 kg
2 onions, roughly diced
1 medium leek - white part only, roughly diced
2 sticks celery, roughly diced
2 cloves garlic, halved
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. white peppercorns ( Any type of whole peppercorn will do)
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried, it doesn't matter.)
peel of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. allspice


  1. Wash the chicken and bones and places in a 5 Litre pot, cover completely with water and bring to a boil
  2. Skim away any scum as it comes to the surface
  3. Add the vegetables and bring back to a boil
  4. Add the rest remaining ingredients and simmer very gently, uncovered for 1.5 hours
  5. Carefully lift out the chicken, set aside. The chicken meat can be removed from the chicken, shredded off and used for other things like soup!
  6. Simmer the stock gently for another hour. At , at the end you should have around 2 Liters
  7. Carefully ladle the liquid into a fine sieve, the less the bones and vegetables are disturbed in this process the clearer the stock will be. 
The stock is now ready for use. Freeze what you don't need for later use.

Risotto Base (as given by Daring Cooks)

olive oil 2 fluid oz 60 ml
1 small onion, quatered
rice 14 oz 400g
Any type of risotto rice will do. I use Arborio but the recipe itself says Vialone Nano. Another to look for is Carnaroli.
white wine 2 fl oz 60 ml
chicken or vegetable stock , simmering 2 pints 1 L


  1. I did not follow this > Heat oil in a pan and add onion. Fry for a few minutes to flavour the oil then discard. (We diced ours and left it in as we like onion). ** I reheated the caramelized onions and fennel in a tbls. olive oil, then continued with these steps...
  2. Add the rice and stir for a few minutes to coat each grain of rice with oil and toast slightly.
  3. Add the wine and let it bubble away until evaporated.
  4. Add enough stock to cover the rice by a finger’s width (about an inch or two). Don't actually stick your finger in, it will be hot. Just eye it off.
  5. Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon from time to time, until most of the stock has been absorbed.
  6. Repeat Step 5 making sure to leave aside approximately 100 ml. of stock for the final step. .
  7. Repeat, save 100ml for the final stage.
  8. Once you are at this point, the base is made. You now get to add your own variation.
  9. At the end I finish with 1 tbls. butter and 1/3 cup of fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Soffritto: 1 onion, 2 carrots, 2 celery, 2 bulbs garlic (all chopped rough)
2 Lamb Shanks
3Tbls.+ Olive Oil
1 Tbls. Tomato Paste
1/2 Cup Red Wine
2-3 Cups Stock (chicken or vegetable)
Salt/Pepper to taste

Heat a deep sided pan on Med/High with a covering of olive oil. Season the Lamb Shanks, then brown them on all sides working for a nice crunchy brown skin all over. Remove and hold to the side.
Turn the heat down and add the soffritto to the pan, season and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add 1 Tbls. tomato paste and stir into the soffritto (this adds a depth of flavor).
Add 1/2 cup red wine and stir, heating on Med. until the liquid is reduced in half.
Put the browned Lamb Shanks back into the pan and pour in 2 cups of stock, bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook until the shanks are "fall off the bone" tender (about 2 hours) You can also, put this into the oven preheated to 325F for the 2 hours instead of stove top, if you want.
When done, remove the shanks and keep warm. Strain the sauce, carefully, and return the sauce to the pan and reduce to a thicker au jus.

This is delicious with risotto, rice, potatoes or pasta.
ENJOY and thanks for checking out my post! :D



Jenn said...

Mmm with braised lamb shank, this looks so good!! Great job on the challenge!

Audax said...

Delightful flavour combination - Caramelized Onions and Fennel!!! And that lamb shank looks so tender and juicy. Bravo on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Wic said...

oh wow this looks amazing. love your answer to this months challenge.

Unknown said...

Looks fantastic! With the lamb shank I bet it was especially tasty!

Anonymous said...

the braised lamb looks so wonderful. I love the flavours you used!

Anonymous said...

Good job on the challenge!

chef_d said...

Yummy looking risotto, I'm getting very hungry just looking at that lambshank!

Lauren said...

Onions and fennel? My, that sounds like a smashing risotto flavour!