Believe It! Risotto with Radicchio and Baccala

The 'Sacred Cod' has hung in the Massachusetts Legislature since 1747.
This is an unusual risotto, and it defies some conventions, but our verdict was beyond reasonable doubt - really worth making.  Allow plenty of time, about two hours, since there are a number of steps, all easy but a little long. Don't be intimidated by the ingredients if you haven't used them before, everything will be fully explained. Please read the recipe all the way through, as some steps can be done concurrently.

Marble soaking basins in Carrara.
Baccala and stockfish (stoccafisso) are nearly interchangeable terms.  Technically, baccala is cod preserved by salting, stockfish by drying, but in some areas, such as the Veneto, the reverse definition is used. The salt dried version will have fewer odors during the initial prep.  Whatever it's called, the fish must be soaked to soften it and remove salt.  It's a big job to soak your own fish, and takes about 4 days of water changing, so try to find one that's been treated for you. Look for a fish store, fish market, or gastronomia that caters to baccala lovers. The sign will say either 'ammollato' or 'bagnato'. Some retailers may only offer it toward the end of the week. The stockfish I bought had been softened in running water in the shop - and since the shop is in the marble-producing town of Carrara,  the fish was in a custom marble trough (address below).  Fresh water flows into the top basin, and then flows down to the lower basin. The two basins allow the fishmonger to control the rinse times. When I told the owner what I was going to do with his lovely piece of fish, he was surprised, and a bit doubtful. Always a good sign.

Risotto with Radicchio and Baccala

300g Carnaroli or other risotto rice
250g Pre-soaked stockfish
200g radicchio Trevisana
2 shallots, minced
1 bottle Gew├╝rztraminer wine
1 1/2 - 2 liters vegetable broth (can use boullion)
Olive oil

Serves 4.

Even though it has already been soaked, boil the stockfish gently for about an hour in enough vegetable broth to cover, then drain it and take off all the skin, take out all the bones, and break it in to bite sized pieces.
Wash the radicchio, then cut it lengthwise into thin strips.  Melt 2 tsp of butter in a wide pan and wilt the radicchio for a few minutes.

In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil, then saute half the shallot. When it is soft, add in the boiled stockfish and cover it with most of the wine, reserving a 1/2 cup and a nice glass for the cook.  Cook uncovered over medium heat. When the wine has reduced by 90%, add in the radicchio and salt and pepper to taste.  The saltiness of the stockfish will vary significantly, so be thoughtful here!

While the wine is reducing on the fish, make the risotto: heat 4 or 5 cups of the vegetable broth in a separate pan.  In your risotto pan, heat some olive oil, and soften the rest of the shallot over medium high heat. Add in the rice and stir until well coated and translucent at the ends of the grains.  Add ½ cup of the remaining wine, cook down well, and proceed to make the risotto by adding the hot broth, ½ cup at a time, stirring often and waiting until the broth is incorporated before adding more broth.  When the rice is done, soft but still a bit al dente (about 18 minutes), add a tablespoon or two of butter and a good handful of grated Parmigiano.  If the rice firms up with the addition of the cheese, add another bit of broth.  Top the rice with the stockfish/radicchio combination – eccolo!

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Written by Martha