On the last season of Masterchef US, season 10, the 4th runner up went home. His name is Noah Sims and he was a favorite. What sent him home was a risotto topped with venison loin. The venison was overcooked, unfortunately for him, but what sent him home was a profound learning experience to me.
Risotto is a dish. It is a meal. It can be enhanced with an endless number of ingredients, from mushrooms to tomatoes and squash, and seasoned accordingly. It also can be served with protein of just about any kind, for a more involved meal. However, the protein is a separate dish from the risotto.
So, you have risotto, and the added protein, and according to Joe Bastianich, the son of Italian cuisine expert Lidia Bastianich, something has to tie them together. Otherwise it’s like serving a chili dog on a plate of cacio de pepe. (not his quote.) Two completely different dishes.
What Mr. Bastianich suggested was that if Noah had been able to prepare a venison stock to use in the risotto, the overall meal would have worked.
I found this to be quite revelatory. Because although my husband doesn’t mind, I’ve put just about any kind of meat or seafood over his risotto. Now, they have to “go” together. Now I know.
So I created this risotto dish topped with braised pork chops in order to use pork broth in the risotto. Start in the morning, and don’t plan on serving the dish until the next day.
Braised Pork Shanks
4 – 1 1/2 pound Berkshire pork shanks
Grapeseed oil, about 1/4 cup total
Olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled, smashed
3 cups white wine
3 cups chicken broth
Sprig of sage
Begin by coating the pork with a generous amount of salt and pepper.
Heat the grapeseed oil in a heavy cast-iron pot over high heat. Brown the tops and bottoms of all four shanks, one at a time.
After browning, place the shanks in a large, deep and heavy pot, like a Le Creuset; set aside.
Turn down the heat under the pot to medium. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the onion, celery, and carrots for about 5 minutes, stirring up all of that meaty goodness.
Stir in the garlic for a minute, then add the wine and broth.
Add all of the herbs to the pot with the broth. Heat up the liquid in the pot, uncovered, and cook for 30 minutes. Then cover the pot well and cook for 30 more minutes.
Let the liquid cool enough to handle the pot, then strain the liquid through a fine colander into the pot with the shanks. Add more wine or broth if necessary. The meat should just be covered.
At this point you can check the seasoning. The broth should be rich with flavor.
Place the pot over a medium-high heat and simmer the shanks for 2 1/2 hours. Turn the shanks over halfway through cooking.
When you’re ready to collect the pork broth and proceed with the risotto, remove the shanks and place in a baking dish. Cover with foil to keep warm.
Taste the broth. If it’s watery, spend at least 30-45 minutes reducing it. Store it in a pourable pot, then make the risotto (recipe below).
Risotto served with Braised Pork Shanks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
12 ounces arborio rice, about 2 cups
Pork broth, about 4-5 cups
Salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, and saute the shallots for a few minutes. Add the rice and stir until all of the grains are lightly coated with the oil.
Gradually begin adding the pork broth to the risotto. This whole process should take about 45 minutes; stir constantly.
Season to your taste. At the end of cooking, I added just a little bit of cream, but this is optional.
The risotto already pairs with the pork shanks because of the lovely rich broth used in it, but you can be a little more creative with the risotto.
To prepare the risotto and pork shank dish, place half of the risotto on a pasta bowl, and top with a warm pork shank. I brushed a little of the broth over the pork so it was nice and moist.
I added some chopped parsley for a little color, and served the meal with a simple green salad.
The pork is so moist, and tender like pulled pork. And flavorful.
And the risotto? Superb. Even with very little fat, the pork broth really created a rich-tasting risotto.
And if you don’t want to deal with the whole shank on your risotto, you can cut it up first, and serve warm over the risotto, like you would short ribs.
But the whole pork shank does make a pretty presentation!