Ask A Chef: Wikileaks Email Hack Uncovers Podesta’s Risotto Mistake

Ask A Chef - Pancetta, Pumpkin, and Sage Risotto.

Wikileaks revealed their latest dump of hacked emails this morning. What did we learn? John Podesta, Chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, is standing over pots of risotto for too long.

As a culinary instructor, I hear a fair amount risotto-related complaints. Most grumbles reference gluey mounds of uncooked rice, but another scarred rice maker actually hurt her shoulder by stirring (what I can safely assume was mush around minute 35) for over an hour – she started with cold stock that cooled the rice with every addition. The total time for making risotto, from start to finish, should be less than 25 minutes.

Here’s a recipe for Pancetta, Pumpkin, and Sage Risotto, complete with important terms and times so you and John Podesta can quickly get back to stirring other pots, political or not.

Note – Try topping this risotto with roasted pumpkin, butternut squash, or red wine braised short ribs.

6 to 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 ounces pancetta, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 shallots, minced
2 cups short grain rice (arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white or marsala wine
1 cup canned, unsweetened pumpkin
¾ cup shredded parmesan
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage

Pour the stock into a large sauce pot and heat to a bare simmer over medium-low heat.

Place a large, heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add the diced pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat is rendered and the pieces are crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the crispy pancetta to a paper towel or plate.
(Total time – 5 minutes)

Soffritto – Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the remaining pancetta fat and add the minced shallots. Sweat the shallots for 1½ to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are translucent and soft.
(Total time – 2 minutes)

Tostatura – Add the short grain rice (arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano, or baldo) to the pot and stir with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes. Toasting and coating the grains of rice in the hot fat adds flavor and also prevents the grains from absorbing too much liquid, too fast, once stock is added. Season the rice with salt, white pepper, and minced garlic, then stir for about 10 seconds until the garlic is fragrant.
(Total time – 2 minutes)

Deglaze – Add the white or marsala wine to the pot and simmer for 1 minute to cook off the raw taste.
(Total time – 1 minute)

Cottura – The pot should remain over medium to medium-high heat during this integral cooking step. Ladle 1 cup of hot stock onto the rice and stir gently with a wooden spoon until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 2 minutes. Repeat this ladle-and-stir process four additional times.
(Total time – 10 minutes)

At this point, taste the rice to check for doneness. If the rice sticks to your teeth, add another portion of stock and stir for 1½ minutes. If the rice is chewy and almost done, move on to the next step.
(Total time – 2 minutes)

Montecottura – Remove the pot from the heat and mount the risotto with additional flavors and creamy textures: Add one more portion of stock to the top of the risotto along with the remaining tablespoon of butter, canned pumpkin, parmesan cheese, and minced sage leaves. Cover the pot and allow the rice to rest for about 2 minutes. Stir the mixture once more to incorporate the ingredients on top and to develop the creamy texture that risotto is known for.
(Total time – (2 minutes)

All’onda (flowing like a wave) Risotto should have a loose, creamy texture and will flow when its serving dish is tilted back and forth. The northern Italian rice dish does not hold well so make sure to serve it immediately with a sprinkling of crispy pancetta.