Filipinos have an enduring connection with Italian food that extends to more than just pizza and pasta. Nowadays, we indulge ourselves with a creamy heaping of risotto or a plateful of savory osso buco.
According to Chef Joris Rycken of Acqua restaurant in Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa, Italian cuisine has common and really popular ingredients such as the olive oil, choice herbs, tomato sauce, and cheese.
Italian food fans can attest that these basic ingredients when served fresh or cooked well, can transport a diner to a place of relative home-cooked goodness and satisfaction.
Still, Filipinos can sometimes feel intimidated when cooking an Italian dish just because a number of ingredients sound so foreign to us. It's a good thing that Chef Joris debunked this myth for me when he demonstrated how to cook Risotto ai Funghi Porcini.
The first thing that I learned from him is that a good risotto must not be firm on a plate but rather, creamy and gooey. Chef Joris says, “You add the butter and the Parmesan cheese to make sure the creaminess is coming out. The risotto when it comes on a plate, it must actually run (to the sides). It must be that creamy.”
Cooking risotto surprisingly is easy. (See the recipe below.) The entire procedure just took less than 30 minutes. Chef Joris adds another tip that when cooking the rice, the right texture must be al dente.
Indeed, Risotto ai Funghi porcini is easy to do but the taste of cheese and the earthy flavor of mushrooms take the dish to another level of gustatory experience. The ham on top of the risotto is just the right complement to the comfort foaod.
Just a side note, I enjoyed the dish in front of the gorgeous Mactan beach, but I am pretty sure the vista was not clouding my palate.
Chef Joris also shared other secrets of popular Italian recipes like the pizza. “It’s the dough,” he says. “We make a very crispy dough that we cook in the wood-fire oven. (Then) you must have good cheese, nicely melted. ”
He also emphasized the importance of the freshness of ingredients. He says that many of their restaurant’s ingredients are sourced locally. “We take a lot of ingredients, mostly the vegetables from the locals of the Philippines all the way from Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro. Of course the seafood, the prawns and the lapu-lapu, that’s all from Cebu.”
In fact, Chef Joris Rycken shared that Acqua even has an herb garden at the back of the hotel. “That’s where we take our basil, oregano and thyme. It’s not big but enough to serve an Italian restaurant,” he revealed.
I admit that I may have yet to see a demo of the delectable osso buco and I haven’t cooked the perfect ravioli. However judging from the experience of seeing a risotto cooked from the kitchen then making its way to my plate, I can say that there is an easy way to Italian food heaven.
Recipe of Risotto ai Funghi Porcini from Chef Joris Rycken:
10 grams onion
80 grams of rice
5 grams of mushroom
120 ml vegetable stock
50 ml white wine
5 grams salt
20 grams butter
20 grams Parmesan cheese
Take one onion and julienne. Put in pan and add the rice. Let it toast. Put the wine in. Wait for it to reduce and then add the vegetable stock and mushrooms. Cook for 20 minutes. Finish with mantecare and mix with butter and Parmesan cheese. Top with parsley.
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