Crispy Goat Cheese Risotto Cakes with Vanilla Salted Winter Pears.

I’m all about multitasking right now.

Buying cute candy cane twine at Target for gift-wrapping while also finding foyer furniture and getting neon pink (I KNOW) wrapping paper for later in life? Been there done that. I might wallpaper my walls in neon pink right now. Some people want a chalkboard wall… I want a neon wall. Okay, and a chalkboard wall.

Wrapping said Christmas presents (I’m so on top of things this year, please pat me on the back) while watching Christmas Vacation while voice-recording recipes and sorting mail? It’s happening.

Making really bad faux holiday wreaths slash pineapples with my food while eating it? Uh huh. Having a cappuccino with a glug of Baileys? Maybe.

Eating some mint chocolate covered pretzel crisps (no, seriously… just kill me) while writing to my invisible internet friends? Check.

Stuffing my face with risotto cakes that can do triple duty as an appetizer, entrée or side dish? Check check check. Done.

I need a minute.

As usual, this is one of my new favorite things and, well… don’t even ask me about my favorite things. They change every week depending on my mood and stuff. I mean, we are even talking songs and books and movies and shoes. You know. All the important things.

Are you like this? Is this normal? Are your favorite things quite dependent on the color of your mood ring? Please say you still have one. If not… let’s go to Claire’s today and get one.

I feel that my whole day may be turned around by the shade of my mood. Read: someone should create a neon mood ring. It should probably be me. I’ll patent that shiz. (not really. I don’t know anything.)

The first time I ever encountered a rice ball was years ago at the beach when we ordered some great pizza and sandwiches from a little Italian place in Wildwood. My cousin was so in love with the rice balls that to this day, she still talks about them. This is my little trashed up version with a touch of goat cheese – and instead of deep frying them, I threw them in the skillet with some olive oil and called it a day. Ain’t nobody got time for deep frying right now.

Remember my favorite old school mashed potato pancakes? I used the same method here. Some leftover (cold!) risotto, a bunch of goat cheese and a bit of flour. I’m giving you a guide measure for the flour below, but it really depends on how liquidy your risotto is. You may need a little more or even a little less flour, and it might be different every single time you make them. They are just soooooo high maintenance. And worth it. Because it seems that come every holiday season, risotto is my thing. Last year I made this sweet potato risotto and the year before that, I made this red wine risotto. Do not fear risotto. It’s so darn simple once you do it a few times.

After consuming these a handful of times, I really felt that they needed… something… on top that didn’t come from a store-bought jar. We’ve done salsa and jams and obviously fruit salsa (what is my life without it?) and I’m sure you’re shocked (but not at all) to know that Eddie has dredged his through a boatload of ketchup. But I wanted a topping that went exclusively with the cakes and fit the season too. So I sautéed some pears with vanilla bean salt and thyme, then pilled all of it high on top

of my goat cheese cake mountain.

Three words: go.to.town.

I’m kind of in love with these little things because they go with EVERYTHING. Eddie ate them as a side with some chicken a few weeks ago and I’ve been throwing them on salads. It’s like adding a crispy hunk of goat cheese to your greens but heartier. More filling and all that jazz. Plus, these are just kind of Christmasy. And who doesn’t want to eat things that are Christmasy?


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Crispy Goat Cheese Risotto Cakes with Warm Winter Pears

Yield: serves 2 to 4

Total Time: 1 hour (plus fridge chilling time)

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
3 to 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock, warmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4-1/3 cup flour
8 ounces goat cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2/3 cup fine bread crumbs

warm winter pears
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 pears, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Directions:

In a large saucepan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and cook for 15 seconds. Add the rice, tossing to coat in the oil, then toast the rice while stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes. Add in the wine, stirring every few minutes until it is absorbed. Once the wine is absorbed, add in 1 cup of stock, stirring until absorbed like you did with the wine. Repeat 2 to 3 more times, until all stock has been added and absorbed. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes – I do not stir constantly, but actually just keep an eye on it and stir every few minutes. Taste the rice and determine if it is cooked to your liking (if not, add in 1 more cup of stock and stir, repeating the process). Unlike regular risotto, I cook mine here until all liquid is absorbed, just so the patties stick together better.

Once the risotto is cooked, let it cool completely. You can do this the night before or a day ahead of time. Add the risotto to a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge until it's chilled. When you're ready to make the cakes, stir the flour into the risotto. Crumble the goat cheese into the mixture and stir until it's evenly combined. If needed, add a little more flour until the mixture is just moldable.

Add the breadcrumbs to a bowl and mix. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the remaining olive oil (in batches, if necessary). Form the risotto mixture into equal-sized cakes about 2 inches in diameter. Roll the cakes in the breadcrumbs and place them in the skillet, cooking until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove each cake and let it sit on a paper towel for a few minutes before serving. Top with the pears.

warm winter pears
To make the vanilla salt, add the vanilla beans and salt together in a bowl. Rub it together with your fingers to disperse the beans - you can do this ahead of time and keep it in a sealed container. You can easily make more or less!

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil and butter. Add the pears with 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla salt and toss to coat, cooking until the pears softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Drizzle in the honey and toss. Add the thyme and cook for another 2 minutes. Place the pears and any liquid in the skillet in a bowl for serving. Use the remaining vanilla salt if needed to season the dish or keep it sealed in a container for another use.

Please note that cheesiness. The cakes. Not me.