What’s better than feasting on Italian cuisine amid the splendor of a five-star hotel?
Feasting on Italian cuisine in a five-star hotel while surrounded by Italian works of art and listening to excerpts from Italian opera and Broadway musicals.
That’s what Crimson Hotel in Alabang is promising diners this June as it holds its first Italian food festival. Dubbed Ciao Italia, the event is being held in celebration of Italy’s National Day last June 2.
Preparing the food for the festival is Crimson Hotel’s own executive chef, Alessio Loddo, who hails from Sardinia in southern Italy. Dishes such as risotto, tagliata di manzo con rucola e grana (tagliatelle pasta with beef, arugula and hard-grained cheese); agnello e carciofi (lamb and artichoke stew); prosciutto in melon balls as well as desserts of tiramisu and panna cotta will be the highlight of the lunch and dinner buffets throughout the month.
One of the secrets of Italian cuisine, says chef Loddo, is slow cooking. That especially applies to risotto—the saying that one should never walk away from a risotto is true, he says, because it must be watched and lovingly tended to from start to finish.
That’s why it will be a special treat for diners to watch the on-the-spot cooking of risotto, which the chefs will do as part of the buffet during the Ciao Italia festival. Diners will see the techniques Loddo uses to make sure the risotto has the right creaminess and flavor. “It takes practice to make a good risotto,” he points out.
Meanwhile, readers at home can start practicing with this recipe for risotto provided by Loddo himself.
(At Crimson Hotel in Filinvest City, Alabang this June, the lunch buffet is P1,100 net per person; dinner is P1,400 net. Call 8632222 for reservations. Italian art works on display during the festival are provided by Il Mercante Di Venezia.)
- 50 g (¼ c) butter
- 1 onion, chopped
- 200 g (1 c + 2 tbsp) Italian short-grain rice such as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano
- ½ c dry white wine
- 4 c hot chicken stock
- 1 pinch saffron thread
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 30 g (½ c) grated Parmesan cheese
- Zest of one lemon
In a wide pan, over medium heat, melt half of the butter and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the rice and sauté for one minute. Turn heat to low. Pour in white wine and simmer while stirring constantly until the wine has been absorbed by the rice grains.
Slowly add two cups of the hot chicken stock, ladle by ladle, and the saffron. Stir gently to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Once the two cups of stock have been absorbed, pour in another ladle of chicken stock. Keep adding more chicken stock, ladle by ladle, each time each ladle of stock has been absorbed by the rice grains, until the rice is cooked but still creamy.
Remove from the heat and let it rest for one minute, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining butter, the Parmesan cheese and the lemon zest. Transfer to a serving dish.
Makes 2-3 servings.
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The best chicken stock to use is one made from scratch. However, Chef Alessio Loddo says you can make one quickly by dissolving chicken broth cubes in hot water. Follow the label instructions (the proportion of chicken broth cubes to water) for making stock.
When cooking the risotto, chef Loddo says you must use only low heat because the rice has to cook very slowly.
Likewise, add the stock very slowly—only ladle by ladle, and wait until the stock is absorbed before adding the next ladle. Do this until the rice is fully cooked.
The stock must always be hot when you pour it into the rice.
Do not wash the rice before cooking it. Washing the rice releases the starch, which acts as the binder for the risotto and makes it creamy.