Chef (and owner) Andrea Frizzi is a native of Milano, so he has created an Italian haven in little Denver. His menu changes nightly to reflect the freshest food he’s able to procure. Seems like even the wine list changes nearly weekly and it’s all italian wines, natch (a place after my own heart)! Think about it: it’s some hard work to not only cook each night, but to place that many varied food orders and create endless menus. I, for one, am committed to patronizing his establishment to show my gratitude!
Chef Frizzi hosts a Denver cooking class the second Saturday of each month featuring a different main dish. (It’s a great Italian cooking class in Denver!) You can also get a private cooking class. As an avid risotto lover I was pleased to have opted-in for that class. He maxes the classes out at 10 people. That morning nine showed up. Bundled in our North Face and Patagonia best, huddle around a table we were served espresso or tea. It was a cold, soggy day in Denver, Colo. I know, because I squish-squashed through 10 miles in advance of the class.
We were explained how the class would work: we would get cooking demos and tastings of six different types of risotto, then we’d pile into the tiny kitchen, four at a time, to make our own risotto. Oh, and there was to be a contest. The reward was not money or fabulous prizes, but bragging rights for the class’s best risotto. Being a hair competitive my excitement started to build. Time to focus.
The basics: olive oil, rice, minced shallots, a teeny tiny splash of dry white wine, veggie stock, parmigiano, salt, more olive oil, whip with two heaping spoonfuls of parmigiano, three grinds of white pepper, a pinch of saffron and count one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand as you pour and stir in the olive oil.
- Risotto cooks on the stove for 18 minutes.
- Most recipes call for minced onions, but Chef Frizzi will not hear of that. All shallots, all the time.
- Most recipes call for chicken stock, but he says for the right flavor profile you need veggie stock, keep it warm on the stove, and he recommends making it yourself (ha, yeah, I can really see myself making veggie stock when I can buy it just as easily; maybe one day!).
- When the rice has been cooked for its 18 minutes, remove from the stove to finish.
- Never use black pepper with saffron as the they fight with each other
Next we (when I say “we”, I mean Chef Frizzi cooked and we ate) did a simple fruit risotto with pears and walnuts; the only difference was black pepper in lieu of white (since it didn’t include the saffron) and it was topped with pecorino cheese. Another amazing one was the risotto with squid ink and prawns. Because it’s a seafood dish it does not get cheese.
- December 2011: Risotto
- January 2012: Gnocchi
- Rice: aged 1 year – available at Marczyck’s Fine Foods; we were recommended the brand Carnaroli.
- Pans: use aluminum, stainless steel, copper - not ceramic! And, make sure it’s deep!
- Use a wooden spoon.
- Do not mix black pepper and saffron unless you want a war.
- Do not use cheese with seafood risotto (I swear, it’s still good!).
- Ignore the recipe when it says onions, use shallots.
- Use veggie stock because chicken stock overpowers the dish — out of respect for Chef Frizzi, I will tell you to also make your own veggie stock. But, full disclaimer: it will likely happen very rarely for me.
- Never finish risotto on the stove. Always remove to stir in the finishing touches (cheese, olive oil and salt).
- Make the risotto flat on the plate by hitting (“spanking” as Chef Frizzi calls it!) it from the bottom.
- Eat risotto from the outside in (I can’t remember why!).
Got good cooking class suggestions for me? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @valeriekq!