Updated: Aug 22, 2022
Have you watched “Searching for Italy” with Stanley Tucci? I have and after every show I was hungry and dreamt about making all of the tasty dishes featured. I featured one of his favorite dishes in Fare Musings on May 16, 2021.
In each episode, Mr. Tucci highlights the cuisine from one of the twenty regions in Italy. During Season 2, Mr. Tucci showcased the Piedmont where he visited Hotel Cinzia in Vercelli. The town’s restaurants specialize in risotto. The hotel’s restaurant, Christian and Manuel, is co-owned by brother chefs, Christian and Manuel Costardi. The restaurant serves over 20 different types of risotto and their signature risotto dish has a modern twist. They make it with Grana Padano cream, beer reduction and ground coffee. It’s supposed to taste like cappuccino or tiramisu, as well as risotto – all in one dish. After tasting the risotto, Mr. Tucci said it was a “revelation”, so my curiosity got the best of me.
I followed the risotto recipe “to a T.” I purchased (on Amazon) a Carnaroli rice harvested in the Piedmont region. (See photos). My local cheese monger had the Grana Padano and the remainder of ingredients came from my pantry and refrigerator. The Costardi brothers served the risotto in a can of Campbell’s soup; so did I.
With cooking complete, I sat down to enjoy my first bite. Mr. Tucci was oh so right! It was a revelation. The combination of flavors delighted my palate. It had me at the first bite! The risotto was creamy, the Grana Padano cream was outstanding, the addition of the ground coffee and beer reduction did give it the flavors of cappuccino or tiramisu. As it turns out, this was by far the best tasting risotto I have ever eaten.
Here is the recipe as made by the Costardi brothers.
4 cups/1 liter lager beer
3.5 ounces + ½ ounce/100 grams + 15 grams Grana Padano (similar to Parmigiano Reggiano cheese), aged 27 months, freshly grated
1 cup/¼ liter whipping cream
1 ¼ cups/300 grams Carnaroli rice
Sea salt (medium coarse)
Freshly ground black pepper
About 12 ½ cups/3 liters store-bought vegetable broth, plus more if needed
1/3 cup/25 grams cold unsalted butter
Ground coffee, preferably Arabica
1. First, start preparing the beer reduction. Put the beer in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let the beer reduce until the consistency is like a soft caramel, about 45 minutes. As the beer reduces, the alcohol evaporates, and the remaining liquid has a concentration of flavor in which spicy notes are enhanced. Remove from heat and let cool (this is best done the day before; once cooled, refrigerate overnight in an airtight container).
2. Prepare the cream of Grana Padano. Using a cheese grater or microplane, grate 3.5 ounces (100 grams) Grana Padano. Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) and add the Grana Padano. Whip the cream with a whisk until it's a smooth mixture, maintaining temperature at 100 F (40 C). At higher temperatures, there is a risk of not obtaining a homogeneous cream. If the cream is not smooth, pass it through a sieve and simmer at 100 F (40 C).
3. Proceed with the preparation of the risotto. In a risotto pot, toast the rice dry over medium heat, shaking the pot and stirring the rice until it sings, 2 to 3 minutes. Don't let the rice burn. Add a pinch of salt and a grating of pepper. Continue cooking at high heat and add the vegetable broth a little at a time, stirring continuously after each addition and allowing the rice to absorb it. Cook, constantly stirring, until the rice is al dente with a slight bite in the center of the grain, 15 to 20 minutes. The risotto should look creamy in texture. Check the taste and remove from heat. Add the cold butter and remaining ½ ounce (15 grams) Grana Padano to the pot and shake, using a wavelike motion (see video), to incorporate in the rice.
4. If you are serving in cans: Put a sprinkling of the coffee grounds and a few drops of beer reduction on the bottom of the can. With the help of a jam funnel, add the rice, the Grana Padano cream, the coffee grounds and beer reduction.
5. If you are using plates: Spread the risotto on each plate, add the Grana Padano cream, sprinkle with coffee grounds and finish with the beer reduction.
Coffee, Beer, Risotto recipe as pictured on Searching for Italy
And my risotto.
Given I made the beer reduction multiple times to get it right, I have a couple of tips for you.
1) Don’t stray far from the pot, because when the beer comes to a boil it foams up and you must be ready with spoon in hand to pat down the foam, then lower heat. Keep the beer on simmer.
2) The beer took longer to reduce than 45 minutes, as noted in recipe. It could take up to one hour to achieve the desired consistency.
3) The reduction on its own was interesting but had a slightly bitter taste. But when mixed with the risotto recipe, it became delicious.
4) I had left-over reduction, so I tried it on ice cream, and I found that it needed something. I remade the reduction using one bottle of beer and one tablespoon of dark brown sugar. That worked really well. It was sweeter and perfect for a topping on dulce de leche ice cream.
Lastly, as we all know, making risotto is always a labor of love, but this particular risotto required un'abbondanza d'amore. Yes, it was worth making. You won’t regret it. That is, of course, if you’re not counting calories!