Cooking Our Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home

It’s pretty clear that the current fine dining trend in the city is rooted in simplicity. Take a recent meal at three star BLT Fish, where a pristine piece of fish comes in a single preparation with a side of a selected sauce. The sides are simple, pure expressions of a one single ingredient.

Even though Gothamist enjoyed a recent meal at the three star Biltmore Room, we couldn’t help noticing the ingredient overload on most of their plates in comparison to the current less-is-more menu approaches around town. While it worked out for the most part, our favorite dish turned out to be the simplest in taste.

A creamy parmesan pea risotto was the base for two plump, grilled quail. The beauty of it was that Gothamist’s simplistic taste buds could focus on the fresh English peas and appreciate the perfectly soupy yet creamy texture of the slightly al dente risotto.

Gothamist went meatless (gasp!) by creating a dense, savory almond cake to act as a another layer of flavor and texture for the risotto. The key to injecting the risotto with maximum pea flavor is to fold in a simple puree right before serving.

Gothamist Recipe


Biltmore Room’s Parmigiano Pea Risotto
with a savory almond cake

The batter for the cake takes minimal effort to mix together and bakes while you make the risotto. The cake only has a bit of sugar that plays nicely with the peas, as it mostly explodes with almond flavor. You’ll have some left over cake, but that’s not a bad thing.

Ingredient Shopping List
Recipe serves two people with extra cake.

1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large cloves garlic
2 shallots
1 lemon
10 ounces of shelled fresh English Peas (1 10 oz package of frozen peas OK)
1 wedge parmigiano reggiano
1 stick butter (some for risotto, some for cake)
5 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 7 oz box of almond paste (baking aisle)
5 tablspoons sugar
½ cup flour
3 eggs
½ tspoon baking powder

Estimated cost of ingredients: $20 at Fairway

Special Equipment:
Mixer, food processor, shallow cake pan

Make the Cake Batter

Place oven on 325.

Lightly butter bottom and sides of cake pan.

Take almond paste out of package and cut in half. Take one half and grate on a box grater. Add grated almond Paste and sugar to a mixing bowl. Mix until combined into small crumbs. Add ½ stick plus one tablespoon of butter to almond paste mixture. Beat until light colored and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat on high for three minutes, or until very light and fluffy. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and a few pinches of salt. Add to almond paste mixture and mix until just incorporated.

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Spoon batter into prepared cake pan and rub top with a little butter for browning. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Take the cake out of the pan. With a ramekin, inside of a glass or a ring mold, cut the cake into disks and set aside.

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Make Pea Puree

If using fresh English peas, get a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Blanch peas, about 1 minute each, rinsing in ice water so that they remain bright green and crisp. Drain and set aside to dry.

If using frozen peas, let them soak for a few minutes in room temp or warm water. Drain and proceed.

Add half our your peas to food processor. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of the stock. Puree until smooth and set aside.

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Make The Risotto

Grate a lot of parmigiano reggiano cheese, about two heaping handfuls (grate more than you think!). Chop garlic. Dice shallot. Place stock in saucepan and place on medium heat. You want it hot but not boiling for cooking the risotto (a splash of white wine in the stock is a nice touch if you have it. So is homemade stock, obviously).

In a medium-size heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté, stirring continuously, just until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and continue to stir, using a wooden spoon, to coat the rice with the oil. The rice should toast just a bit in this stage, as it adds a nutty flavor to risotto.

Ladle in enough of the hot stock to cover the rice completely and continue to cook, stirring often, until all the liquid is absorbed. Pour in another ladle of the remaining stock and stir and cook until it has been absorbed. Repeat. Continue this process until the rice is al dente, tender but still very chewy, and most of the liquid has been absorbed. It should be a little wet and even a touch soupy. Stir in the pea puree and the reserved whole peas.

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Reduce the heat to very low so that the risotto doesn't simmer anymore. Stir in the Parmesan and a few tablespoons of butter to give the risotto a nice, creamy finish. Add a squeeze of lemon and taste for salt and pepper. Spoon it immediately onto a plate. Place the cake on top, while adding a bit of risotto on top as a garnish.