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Risotto Bianco (...e rosso o verde) inspired by Big Night {food 'n flix}

Big Night is one of those films that I'd seen bits and pieces of here and there, yet never seen the whole thing.  And really, I have no idea why!  I'm a pretty big film buff.  And you know I love food.  Food plus film.  Foodie film.  Hellloooo.  Seems like something I should have already loved.  Fortunately, it was our "assignment" for Food 'n Flix this month thanks to Kristina of Spabettie.  So I had to make a point of actually watching the whole thing!

Now.  Little did I realize that this would actually pose a bit of a problem.  I thought I'd flipped by the film On Demand before, so I waited a bit too long to find out that it actually was not On Demand.  At least not anymore.  Shoot.  Head to the my library's website.  Ummm...nowhere in the system.  What!?  Click on over to trusty Amazon.  Oh, it was there.  But it was also 37 smackers + shipping.  Ummm, no.  So I had to do a little driving tour.  Nobody has it.  But they can order it.  Yeah, I waited way too long.  You see, I'm the kind of person that likes to have the actual movie in hand.  I would have settled for a rented copy even if I couldn't buy it.  So I went in for the last resort...and back to Amazon.  Fortunately you can buy a 24-hour rental of the film for $3.  It's not quite the same, but I went for it.  Seeing as how it the day before our submissions were due.  That would be today.  I'm pushin' it.
Now that I've actually seen it, I know I'll still be ordering myself a copy.  It is so much fun...and there's SO MUCH good food.  I want to throw a BIG NIGHT party, actually.  If you haven't seen it before, it's basically the story of two brothers from Italy who have opened an authentic Italian restaurant in America. Primo (the chef) refuses to bastardize his food.  Even to satisfy those pesky American customers with less-than-stellar palates.  I don't blame him.  Why would you want to pass up a chance to eat real Italian food!?

Anyhoo...their restaurant is in trouble (partly because of the fact that they...well, Primo...won't compromise).   Everybody goes to the hoppin' Pascal's across the street.  Live music, laughter, spaghetti with meatballs (even though "sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone"), flaming food served tableside. Pascal's gives the people what they want.  So, in a last ditch effort to save their dream, Secundo and Primo prepare a party to end all parties...a meal to end all meals...complete with amazing food, beautiful flowers, and live music (or so they thought).  This was to be their BIG NIGHT.

Although things didn't exactly go as planned, everybody was entranced by the food that Primo sent out from his kitchen.  While I would have LOVED to make a Timpano (and I will one day...), I just didn't have the time left to make it (but Kristina made an awesome one here).  I decided to go with rice in the colors of the Italian Banderia (flag) like Secundo and Cristiano served during that final meal.  And I'm okay with that.

Risotto Bianco

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Keywords: simmer side entree rice Italian
Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 4 Tbs. butter
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped preserved lemon rind, optional
  • 1 c. arborio rice
  • ½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt
  • white pepper
to make a green and red layer
  • basil pesto (or other green pesto)
  • red sauce (tomato, marinara, etc.)
Add 5 cups of water to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low simmer and keep on a low flame.

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy, deep-sided pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent, ~3 minutes. If using, stir in the preserved lemon rind. Add rice and stir for a minute or two, until everything is well-coated with butter.
Add one ladle full of the simmering water to the rice, stirring almost constantly. Once all of the liquid has absorbed, add another ladle full of water. Continue this process until most of the water has been added, ~20 minutes.

Taste rice, it will be done when it is tender with a firm center. Add the parmesan and remaining butter; stir until melted and combined into creamy, starchy rice. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

to make tri-colored risotto (layered like the Italian flag or Bandiera)
I divided the rice into thirds. For the white (or bianco) layer, I left the rice as-is. For the green layer, I stirred in about ¼-½ cup of basil pesto at the end. For the red layer, I stirred in enough red sauce to color it. Layer on a platter and serve.

Risotto Bianco slightly adapted from Canal House Cooking vol. n° 7
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Food 'n Flix is being hosted over at Spabettie this month with the chosen flick Big Night.