Some people steer clear of making risotto because it can be tedious. A risotto is not something you whip up for a speedy weeknight meal, rather it should be paired with a special meal as a side dish.
Risotto is not a dish in which the ingredients are dumped into a pan on the stove top and you set and forget it. You need to watch it, pay attention and watch how the rice begins to take on a plumpness as you swirl in the broth. The end result is so worth it and your guests will love it, especially for holiday gathering. After a few attempts at making risotto, you will develop your own technique.
The hallmarks of a good risotto are rice that’s al dente (firm to the bite or with just a bit of chewiness), nestled in a creamy, flavorful sauce.
Today’s creamy-sage scented risotto is paired with lightly seasoned pork tenderloin with a beer glaze. A key to this entire dish is also to practice mise en place. That’s the French term for having all ingredients prepped and ready to go. You will cook the risotto while the pork tenderloin cooks and rests. The pork should then be at the perfect doneness when the risotto is ready to serve.
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A traditional risotto takes about 40 to 45 minutes – you should be able to complete this entire dish in one hour. You can be hands-off while sautéing the garlic and shallots, but once you begin adding the liquid (beef broth in this case), you need to pay attention to the heat and texture.
The rice used for risotto is a short-grain one that’s high in starch. From that starchiness comes the creamy texture of risotto. Arborio is the most commonly used rice because it takes on a lot of liquid, but will still hold its shape. I find using a large, wide skillet with deep sides works best when making risotto.
The reason you need to pay attention and stir is the rice needs a chance to slowly absorb liquid so it plumps up and cooks. The heat should be about medium. If the heat is too low, you risk the risotto being soggy. If the heat is too high, the liquid will evaporate too fast and the rice won’t absorb enough of it to cook and puff up. The rice should taste al dente – firm to the bite or a little chewy. If not, continue adding more broth, a little at a time.
I find it best to serve risotto immediately and when there is still liquid in the pan. The risotto can be on the loose side because it will continue to absorb liquid and tighten up.
Michigan is a hot spot for the craft beer trend and it’s prime time for hard cider. With that in mind, I turned to marrying the myriad flavors you often find with those into a pork dish. You will not only impress your guests, but craft beer fans as well.
In this recipe, you can use either a craft beer (a fruity wheat ale works well) or hard cider. The beer is added to the skillet the pork was cooked in to make a nice glaze. It’s finished up with a swirl of apricot jam for a bit of sweetness and consistency.
Beer-glazed pork tenderloin with Michigan tart cherry risotto
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Recipe adapted from Food and Drink Magazine, holiday 2013 issue.
For the pork tenderloin:
1 good-size pork tenderloin, about 1 1/4 pounds, trimmed of silver skin
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons mix of unsalted butter and olive oil
For the risotto:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
4 medium shallots, peeled, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or sage leaves (more if you like)
Generous pinch of salt
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth or stock, warmed
1/3 cup dried tart cherries, coarsely chopped if large
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup grated Grana Padano cheese or other favorite good quality Italian cheese
For the glaze:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 cup hard cider or favorite beer
2 tablespoons apricot jam
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Trim the tapered end of the tenderloin, this piece will cook quicker and you will remove it from the pan before the other piece is done.
Season the pork all over with salt and freshly ground black pepper or your favorite all-purpose seasoning. In an oven-proof skillet large enough to fit the pork pieces, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. (If your skillet is small, cut the larger piece of pork in half.) Add the pork and brown on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the skillet to oven and cook the pork about 20 minutes or until an internal temperature is 145 degrees.
Meanwhile, get ready for the risotto. Place a saucepan with the beef broth over low heat to warm. In another saucepan or deep skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté about 1 minute or just until it becomes fragrant. Add the shallots and sauté until they are tender, about 6 to 8 minutes. Do not allow them to brown or the end result of the risotto will be brownish. Stir in the thyme or sage and a good pinch of salt.
Stir in the rice and combine well with shallots. Add enough warm broth to come to the surface of the rice and stir well. Keep stirring slowly and when the stock has been absorbed continue to add broth about 1/2 cup at a time and stir until it’s absorbed. Continue adding broth until the rice is al dente, about 20-30 minutes. If the rice is still too firm and you have no broth left, you can add some water. Stir in cherries during the last few minutes of cooking. Just before serving, stir in 2 tablespoons butter and the grated cheese.
To finish the glaze, in the same pan the pork was cooked in, add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and saute sage for 1 minute over medium. Add beer and apricot jam. Reduce over medium heat to desired consistency.
Slice pork and serve on top of the risotto. Drizzle with the glaze.