Smoked Turkey Risotto


Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

A new Thanksgiving tradition at our house

I’d like to tell you my grandmother always made smoked turkey risotto on what she would have called “Erev Thanksgiving,” but that’s not true. What is true is that smoked turkey risotto just sort of happened on Wednesday evening last week. I came home from work with some of that terrific oak-smoked turkey from the Roadhouse (spiced with ground cloves, Roadhouse Joe coffee, Turkish Urfa pepper, salt and black pepper, smoked slowly over smoldering oak for hours). In an unrelated thought on the drive home, I started pondering putting together a risotto—there’s something soothing about its creaminess and the steady stirring it takes to make it that seemed suited to the world situation. This musing, along with the turkey,  turned into this terrific dish. It’s a bit of an inversion of what others might make more typically. Instead of a turkey with rice and celery stuffing, this is rice, seasoned with celery and smoked turkey. For more on risotto and why I love it so much, see the chapter in the Guide to Good Eating

In a nutshell, it goes like this: Chop a bit of onion and carrot as well as a couple healthy stalks of chopped celery (preferably the infinitely more flavorful stuff that is grown on local farms), and sauté slowly in hot extra virgin oil. Add a sprinkle of sea salt. Stir steadily so the vegetables don’t stick and keep the heat moderate to avoid burning or browning. You want soft gentle cooking, not rapid sizzling. Tammie pointed out the next day the dish would have been good with mushrooms—you could add those to the vegetable mix. Meanwhile, heat some chicken broth. (We have great homemade broth at the Deli you can buy.) I add the rind of Parmigiano Reggiano and a bit of carrot, celery and parsnip to the stock to enrich it further, as well as a few pieces of the smoked turkey, to help bring the flavors together.

When the vegetables soften, add Italian rice. I used Arborio rice the other evening, but Carnaroli can be even better. We have both on the shelves. The rice is critical to the dish—Italian rice alone has the rare ability to absorb liquid, but still stay al dente. Stir and sauté the rice with the vegetables for a few minutes (remember, don’t brown it). Add chunks of the smoked turkey (you can also do this with the Roadhouse smoked chicken, smoked ham from the Deli, or Kieron’s lovely cured hams from Cornman). Then start adding ladles of the hot broth. You’ll get a sizzle when you put in the first one. Stir immediately so the rice doesn’t stick. When the liquid is absorbed, add some more. Keep stirring. Repeat until the rice is almost al dente. Add a little chopped fresh parsley, ground Tellicherry black pepper, and grated Parmigiano Reggiano and stir once or twice. When you think the risotto is ready, add a good bit of butter or olive oil to round out the richness of the dish. Add a bit more broth, stir, and let it sit for a minute. Some like their risotto “soupier,” others I know opt for it to be “drier”—either way will work well. If Carlo Petrini is right that “tradition is innovation that has worked” then this might be a good one in the making!