smoky black bean risotto

I have a new addition to my kitchen: a shiny copper risotto pan. Andrew surprised me with it for my birthday last month, and as much as I wanted to pretend I didn't really need it, I sure did want it. This risotto pan was designed with high sides and and a curved shape that makes getting air into the rice an easier task than with a traditional sauté pan.

Air is one of the secrets, you know. Vigorously incorporating air into the rice throughout the cooking process helps enhance the creamy texture, ensuring that the rice is clinging to the sauce and suspended on the plate. Risotto done right is a special thing.

I was in the process of cooking several kinds of beans to freeze for later in the week when it occurred to me to put a Mexican twist on this Italian classic. I still had some dried chilies in the pantry from earlier in the year, and instead of adding the whole beans at the end, I decided to make a smoky paste with the chilies to ensure maximum flavor. Plating it with a fresh corn and radish salsa was a decision informed by the season. It is almost summer, after all, and something about the crunch and sweetness and brightness was just irresistible.


Don't be intimidated by the prep involved in this dish. The salsa and bean paste can be made ahead. If you don't have time to make your own beans, canned is fine.

1 large ancho chili, dried
2 cups cooked black beans
5 chilies de arbol, dried
2 ears corn
1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced with a mandolin
1 avocado
1/4 cup light sour cream
6 to 8 cups chicken stock
1/2 brown onion, minced
2 cups arborio rice
Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

Heat a dry cast iron pan over medium high heat. Remove seeds and add chiles; toast for about 3 minutes, until the skins are slightly browned. Place in a food processor with the black beans and puree until a smooth paste forms, drizzling in olive oil to help it loosen.

In the same pan, heat a turn of olive oil over medium heat. Remove the corn kernels by holding the husk vertically and gently running your knife down the side. Add the kernels, season with salt and pepper, and cook until just tender and beginning to char, about 5 minutes. Place in a small bowl with the radishes and some cilantro. Drizzle with the juice of 1 lime and season with salt and pepper.

To make the avocado crema, mash the avocado in a bowl with the sour cream. Add the juice of 1 lime, cilantro and salt to taste. Once the avocado is mashed a bit, use a whisk to finish combining, adding a bit of milk if necessary to achieve a thinner consistency.

Bring stock to a simmer in a large pot on one of the back burners. In a large sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon each butter and oil. When the butter is almost melted, add onion and stir to coat. Add pureed black bean paste and season with salt and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until translucent. Add rice and toast for 2 minutes. Add stock a ladle at a time, stirring frequently until most of the liquid is absorbed. This will take about 20 to 30 minutes.

To finish the risotto, turn off the heat and quickly add the remaining tablespoon of butter and a handful of grated Parmesan cheese. Stir vigorously until the butter is nearly melted. Serve immediately with avocado crema and corn and radish salsa.