By Edward Schneider
Last year some time, Jackie and I had the most wonderful risotto assembly at our friend Angela Hartnett’s London restaurant Murano: a layer of shredded braised oxtail, sauce and all, topped with a delicate leek risotto. Cottage pie meets Milan, with the creamy risotto acting simultaneously as a second sauce and as an integral element of the dish. (With a bit of imagination, you can see an antecedent in the custom of serving osso buco with saffron-scented risotto.)
I thought of this a while ago, when we were just starting to get tired of the leftovers of a braised pork butt we’d been pecking away at for several days. Also in the refrigerator I had some cooked peppers – sweet red peppers and a poblano – julienned and slowly melted in olive oil until the flavor intensified. As I reheated the pork yet again, I used a half cup of this pepper mixture to start a risotto: not the typical elegant kind, but something gutsier – a kind of in-your-face risotto that is becoming a habit in our house. This one was flavored only with that pepper “sofrito,” white wine and chicken stock, with plenty of black pepper.The rice would have been a satisfying dinner by itself, but sharing the soup plate with ultra-tender fork-shredded pork and its ultra-flavorful braising juice (by now, after several reheatings, almost a glaze), it was transformed. Its viscous, rice-starch-thickened liquid oozed into the pork sauce, and every fork- or spoonful was slightly different and unfailingly delicious. This was a surprise success, to speak the truth, because much of the appeal of Angela’s dish had been the contrast between the light risotto and the deep-flavored oxtail. Here, both elements were rich-tasting, yet they pulled together.
Try this some time, with some sort of risotto and some sort of stew – an unexpected delight.