“What the fuck is that” was the most common reaction I got when I brought this peculiar ingredient into my restaurant this week. I let everyone in the kitchen hold it, smell it, try to figure out what it was, and I received many interesting guesses (my favorite being octopus lemon). This gnarly citrus fruit is not native to this side of the world and looks like it belongs in a sci-fi thriller film more than a restaurant kitchen.
Buddha’s Hand, or fingered citrus as its often called, is a very unique member of the citrus family. Spawned as a result of a genetic deformity many centuries ago, this unusual fruit is used almost exclusively for its zest and contains no juice, pulp or seeds. The oily zest in incredibly aromatic and floral with bright lemon notes and the pith is much less bitter than a traditional lemon, so it too can be eaten.
The majority of the world’s Buddha’s Hand is grown in China but California has started to up their production since 2008. Most commonly the fingers are cut off and sliced, grated or dried for use in food, scented products or decoration… I just received some fresh black truffles from France so I’m going to use them together to make a killer risotto!
The key to a great risotto is adding the liquid a bit at a time and allowing it to reduce while constantly stirring the rice. This serves two purposes; one it prevents the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning, but more importantly the constant movement of the rice kernels rubbing together breaks down the outer layers of starch creating a beautiful creamy texture without the addition of cream.
Buddha’s Hand & Black Truffle Risotto
Part 1 - Risotto Base:
1 Lb arboreo rice
4 L chicken stock, kept hot on the stove
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 shallots, brunoise
½ C dry white wine
2 Tbsp coconut oil
In a large sauce pot heat the coconut oil over medium heat until shimmering
Add the shallots and sweat until translucent
Add the garlic and a pinch of salt and sweat for another minute
Add the rice and stir well, making sure all the grains are lightly coated with oil
Toast the grains for a couple minutes stirring constantly to avoid sticking
Add the wine and reduce until there is none left
Add stock a ladle full at a time, and continually stir the rice until the liquid is almost gone
Repeat this step over and over until the rice is about 80% cooked
Pro Tip : This part of the recipe can be done a day or two in advance. Once the rice is 80% cooked you can lay it out on a baking tray and cool in the fridge. When you are ready to finish the risotto just continue with the recipe below.
Part 2 – Final Product
remaining chicken stock, kept hot on the stove
small block of pecorino or parmesan cheese
4 Tbsp mascarpone cheese
2 Tbsp truffle oil
1 finger of Buddha’s Hand
1 fresh black truffle
15 parley leaves, chopped
5 sprigs thyme, chopped
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
celery leaves for garnish
If you are heating up cold risotto base, put the base in a sauce pot and slowly add hot stock bit by bit, stirring consistently just like Part 1 of this recipe
Continue this process until the rice comes up to temperature
If you opted not to cool the rice and are going straight through, continue to cook the rice just like before
Cook the rice until it is tender and the hard center has softened and doesn’t get stuck in your teeth
Once the rice is cooked reduce the heat to low and grate in the pecorino cheese. How much is up to you… light cheesiness or cheese the shit out of it, your call!
Then add the mascarpone cheese, gently folding it into the rice
Using a Microplane, grate the zest of the Buddha’s Hand right into the rice, add the chopped herbs and mix
Season with a bit of salt and taste, adjust seasoning as needed
Portion the risotto out into your serving dishes, I used a small cast iron skillet
Drizzle a small amount of truffle oil over the risotto, garnish with celery leaves
Now the fun part… the fresh truffle. If you have a mandolin or an actual truffle slicer you can slice beautiful rounds right over the top. If not just use your Microplane to get fine wisps of fragrant truffle.
How much to add depends again on your taste... and how deep your pockets are.