At the Italian version of a Downton Abbey dinner, things do not exactly run like clockwork: unexpected guests show up, glasses break, truffles do not arrive in time, the silverware is mismatched, quails catch fire and staff all loudly speak at the same time while enjoying wine.
On Sunday, the Forchette Tricolori, the cooking group of which I spoke last week, humored me by playing butlers, footmen, housemaids and kitchen maids to my Mrs.Patmore (for those who don't know, she is the legendary cook of Downton Abbey).
After we all enjoyed Aperol sangria and hors d'oeuvres in the delightful garden, we maneuvered our guests into the formal dining room were they sat down to a dinner inspired by the crossing of our local seasonal bounty with the best of Italy's food imports.
And despite the Butler's attempt on the Ambassador's welfare, a footman kidnapping a quail off a plate and a few drops of hot coffee spilled by a housemaid on a guest or two, the evening still received a standing ovation by the attendees who asked that a mailing list be started to receive early notification and priority admission to next year's dinner.
You can read all about the course and scope of the evening in this lovely article by Nickolas Marinelli of L'Italo-Americano.
In the meantime, I am treating you to the recipe for a fabulous risotto I got to make during my stint as Mrs.Patmore.
Mosaico di Carnaroli giallo e fuchsia Fuchsia and yellow Carnaroli rice mosaic
This award winning eye and mouth delight was created by my dear friend and extraordinary chef Olivia Bonomi.
for 4 people 1 to 2 red beets, depending on size 1 shallot 1 quart vegetable stock 1 pint heavy cream 1 sachet powdered saffron 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 pound Arborio rice 1/4 cup white wine 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/4 cup grated Grana Padano
Steam, peel and purée beets. Mince shallots. Bring stock to a boil. In a sauce pan, simmer the heavy cream until reduced to 1/3. Add saffron and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside and keep hot.
Soften the shallot in the heated olive oil and over low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir continuously until the grains are “toasted”-coated in oil and translucent.
Turn up the heat and deglaze with the white wine. Lower the heat to medium and start ladling in the stock. Start tasting around minute 14, depending on your preference, it will be done somewhere between 18 and 21 minutes.
With the last ladleful of stock, add the beet purée and mix well. Remove from heat and add butter and Grana Padano for the “mantecatura”.
To plate sprinkle a little saffron sauce (like a Jackson Pollock painting) on dish , and scoop risotto in the middle. With a spoon make a little hole in the centre of the risotto and fill it with hot saffron sauce. Serve immediately.