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Risotto with Figs and Almonds

Vin Santo is a sweet, amber dessert wine that has a slightly caramel flavor laced with hints of almond and fig. It is made by drying white wine grapes, usually Malvasia or Trebbiano, and then allowing them to ferment for three or four years in small barrels before bottling. The Italians consider Vin Santo to be a meditative wine, something to sip slowly and with consideration.

Ingredients:

  • 7 to 8 cups apple juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 Granny Smith or pippin apple, peeled, cored
     and diced
  • 3 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1 cup Vin Santo or other sweet wine, at room
     temperature
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 6 figs, quartered lengthwise

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the apple juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Maintain at a gentle simmer.

In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 3 Tbs. of the butter. Add the apple and sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the apple to a bowl and set aside.

Add the rice to the same pan and stir until each grain is well coated with oil and translucent with a white dot in the center, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed.

Add the simmering apple juice a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Wait until the juice is almost completely absorbed (but the rice is never dry on top) before adding the next ladleful. Reserve 1/4 cup juice to add at the end.

When the rice is tender to the bite but slightly firm in the center, after about 20 minutes, stir in the apple. Cook to heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 3 Tbs. butter and the reserved 1/4 cup juice. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds, garnish with the figs and serve immediately. Serves 8.

Variation Tip: Other wines that would work well in this dessert risotto are sweet Marsala, Malvasia or other late-harvest wines.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Risotto, by Pamela Sheldon Johns (Simon & Schuster, 2002).