Crispy Risotto Cakes with Taleggio Cheese

What can you do with leftover risotto? Risotto cakes can be put together without a lot of bother, just add stinky cheese and breadcrumbs and fry them up! A perfect lunch with a side salad.

Crispy Risotto Cakes
There are a few things I make almost exclusively because I want to do something with the leftovers (I’m looking at you Pork Belly Bánh mì sliders). And while risotto on its own is delicious, I love the gooey, crunchy cakes you can make with the leftovers even more. That’s why when Matt and I decided to make Shrimp and Lobster Risotto with Peas the other evening, I made quite a bit more than I knew we would need, with the devious (brilliant?) intention of making risotto cakes with the rest.

These things are insanely versatile. First of all, you can use pretty much any kind of leftover risotto you have. I can’t think of a version that wouldn’t work with a crunchy exterior, can you? Secondly, with a crisp salad and a glass of wine, they make an excellent lunch or light dinner on their own. Pair them with a roast beast of some sort and they become an incomparable side dish. I’m starting to feel like an informercial (But wait, there’s more!). Want an unbelievably delicious appetizer or party snack? Just make smaller patties. Oh, and I almost forgot. Risotto Cake + roasted tomato + poached egg = best brunch dish ever. That’s the official definition of a “super-food”, right? I’m pretty sure I’m right about this.

If you don’t happen to have leftover risotto in your fridge, don’t panic! Just make this Basic Risotto and chill it overnight. This works especially well if you’re making these for a party. That way you can get the risotto out of the way 2 days ahead, form the cakes the day before and fry them up before your guests arrive, keeping them warm in the oven. Easy peasy.

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Basic Risotto

Shrimp and Lobster Risotto with Peas
Short-grain arborio rice

This is a basic recipe for one of the best comfort food dishes of all time, Risotto. You could flavor this recipe a hundred different ways but I love using it to make Crispy Risotto Cakes with Taleggio Cheese.

Honestly, I’m not sure why people make a big deal about making risotto. I mean, you do have to stir it, but only for 18 minutes or so and it’s not like if you stop for a sec to answer the phone or  look at a picture of a dog in glasses, the whole thing will be ruined.

Arya in glasses

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Shrimp and Lobster Risotto with Peas

Shrimp and Lobster Risotto with Peas

You don’t need to break the bank to make a luxurious dinner. Shrimp and Lobster Risotto packs a ton of flavor into a comforting rice dish.  

For years my best friend, Heather, and I would hang out on New Years Eve at one of our apartments (usually on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where we grew up), where we would drink champagne and sigh about how nice it was to not be in an over-priced bar annoyingly packed with drunk frat boys and tourists. We’d watch the Times Square shenanigans on TV and chuckle about how cold and miserable everyone looked when they didn’t think the cameras were on them.

10 pm would roll around and we’d be jolly and happy, in a warm apartment, wondering if we’d even stay up until midnight. By 11, we would get a bit antsy and one or the other of us would start looking out the window at the revelers below, wondering if they were having more fun than they  seemed to be earlier in the evening. “That girl across the street sure seems to be laughing a lot.” “Yeah, hmmm… and it doesn’t even sound like it’s that cold out.”

Inevitably, by 11:30 we’d be in full blown panic mode, convinced that we were missing out on the most amazing time ever, so, wild-eyed and twitchy, we’d race down Amsterdam Avenue, pressing our faces up against every bar window, cursing ourselves that we didn’t pay the $65 cover charge earlier because now they’re full and everyone inside seems so happy—why are they so happy—how come we’re not in there—let’s check that bar across the street!

By 11:55 we’d be pounding our frozen fists against the door of some random dump like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, begging anyone to take pity and sell us a $25 glass of supermarket champagne. Happy new year!

What I’m trying to say is GOING OUT ON NEW YEARS EVE IS FOR SUCKERS.

Luckily, Matt agrees with me so we’ve developed our own tradition (stolen from my dad and step-mom) of steaming lobsters, getting the best French fries we can find and eating everything as messily as possible on a table covered with newspapers and butter drips. Heaven.

I should add that we always steam an extra lobster in case a hungry stranger shows up at our door so we can make something with it the next day. So what to do with leftover lobster? Of course you could make lobster rolls but why not make risotto! Obviously you could also cook lobsters specifically for this recipe (tips for steaming lobsters below). We also added shrimp because we only had one small lobster left. One of the great things about this recipe is that, though it seems really decadent, two lobsters will feed six people, and nothing is wasted since you use the shells to make a flavorful broth to cook the rice with. Fancy and thrifty!

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Mashed Butternut Squash with Thyme and Mascarpone

Mashed Butternut Squash with Thyme and Mascarpone

This dish is basically autumn in a pot. It’s orange, it’s delicious, it’s healthy, and you can serve it for Thanksgiving or as a side for any meal.

Now that I live in the boonies and have to drive to the grocery store like a normal, I have a bad habit of buying way too many vegetables at once. I have such optimism in the produce aisle, thinking of all the tasty things I’ll make, but time gets away from me and eventually, with great shame in my heart, I end up with a bin full of bendable carrots and fuzzy broccoli rabe.

But I never, ever regret buying too much winter squash (like acorn, delicata, kabocha and butternut). Those things last for-fricking-ever. I mean, I don’t just adore them because of shelf-life. That would be silly. “Hey, you lazy bastards. Wanna make something that won’t rot?” Damn, I should have gone into advertising. I think I have a knack.

Anyway, I’ve had this butternut squash sitting on my counter for at least 3 weeks (lie, 5 weeks) and look; still perfect! Butternut squash is packed with fiber, vitamins A and C so it’s a great, healthy alternative to mashed potatoes and look at that color. It’s like being punched in the face by fall!

We had it with Baked Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Garlic. It’s a great combination.

Mashed Butternut Squash with Thyme and Mascarpone

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