Risotto with Toasted, Crushed Hazelnuts - a Perfect Thanksgiving Side Dish

by David Latt
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hazelnutrisottoFor Thanksgiving we have a menu we love. Roast turkey, corn bread stuffing with Italian sausage, shiitake mushrooms and Turkish apricots, baked sweet potatoes with butter, cranberry sauce, roasted Brussels sprouts and sautéed string beans with garlic-toasted almonds. Since I started doing travel writing, I like to include one dish I've learned to make on a trip.

On a recent month long trip in Switzerland, I enjoyed dozens of meals. Since I was researching local Swiss wines, those meals were wine-paired. Needless to say, I had a very good time. At one of the first stops on the trip, our group of six journalists was treated to a dinner at the chef's table at restaurant Le Mont Blanc at Le Crans in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. One of our group was a vegetarian. We always envied her meals, especially that night when she was served risotto with hazelnuts.

That dish made an impression. So, last night I made risotto and hazelnuts. The combination of creamy rice and crunchy nuts is hard to beat. I'm thinking it would be a great Thanksgiving side dish.

Herb Scented Risotto with Toasted, Crushed Hazelnuts

Last night's risotto was made with vegetable stock. Any stock would add to the flavors of the rice, but whatever kind of stock you use, it would improve the dish if you use homemade not store-bought stock. The salt content of processed stock is very high and the flavor is, well, not that great, in my opinion. Making stock is not difficult. Stock freezes so easily if kept in an air-tight container. It will keep for months with no lessoning of flavor.

The recipe can be entirely vegetarian or can be adjusted to include meat, poultry and seafood. Adding more vegetables and protein will turn this side dish into an entrée.

If whole, toasted hazelnuts with the skins removed are not available, find whole, raw hazelnuts. Roast in a toaster oven set at 350 F for five minutes. Remove when hot and wrap in a cotton towel. Rub with your hands. The skins will come off. To crush then, place the roasted hazelnuts on a cutting board and press down on the nuts with the flat side of a chefs knife. That will crush them. Use the cutting edge of the knife to more finely chop the nuts. Reserve.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 cups arborio rice
4 cups homemade stock (vegetable, chicken, duck, beef, pork or shellfish)
2 cups leafy green (black kale, spinach, Italian parsley) washed, stems removed, finely chopped
1 cup yellow onion, washed, peeled, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, skins and root end removed, finely chopped
5 brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, pat dried, thinly sliced
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, crushed
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Directions:

Heat a large frying pan with half a tablespoon of olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Add the leafy greens, onion and garlic. Sauté until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the rest of the olive oil and heat over a medium-low flame. Add the risotto and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the rice is translucent. Add back the sautéed vegetables and stir well.

Add half a cup stock, stir well and let the rice absorb the liquid. Add a half of cup of stock as the liquid disappears. Continue stirring and adding stock until the rice is al dente. If you run out of stock, a little bit of water can be used.

Finish the risotto with a tablespoon of sweet butter and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and black pepper.

Top with the crushed hazelnuts. Serve with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese on the side.

 

David Latt is an Emmy-award winning television producer who turns to cooking to alleviate stress. He shares his experiences with food and his favorite recipes on his blog Men Who Like To Cook.

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