Dinner parties are easier to do if you serve one-dish entrees

October 12, 1994|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Recently, I have been impressed and influenced by the simple and effective way good friends, who both work full-time, have been giving successful dinner parties. The hosts' secret lies in carefully selecting and preparing an all-in-one main course and a salad to go with it. They buy such appetizers as cheese and breads or smoked salmon and buy tarts, cakes or cookies at a good local bakery for dessert.

This week I decided to adopt their philosophy when planning a small supper for neighbors. I bought imported black olives, cherry tomatoes and especially good marinated artichoke hearts from a local deli and arranged them on an hors d'oeuvres tray. For the entree, I made a risotto with thin slices of smoked ham, steamed broccoli florets and smoked mozzarella cheese. A salad of red oak leaf lettuce and arugula in a light vinaigrette dressing and cappuccino frozen yogurt and biscotti from a nearby store completed the meal.

The risotto was an instant success. The Arborio rice can be cooked along with onions in stock several hours ahead. Then the ham, broccoli and smoked cheese can be quickly added at serving time.

Risotto with Broccoli,

Ham, Smoked Mozzarella

Makes 4 servings

5 to 6 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 cups Arborio rice (see Note)

-! 4 ounces smoked mozzarella or

smoked Swiss cheese, rind removed and cheese shredded

2 1/2 cups broccoli florets, steamed 3 to 4 minutes until bright green and just tender, or microwaved on high power 1 1/2 minutes

4 ounces thinly sliced lean smoked ham

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

salt, freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley (flat leaf if available)

Place chicken stock in heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to keep mixture at gentle simmer.

Melt butter in heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add onion and saute, stirring constantly, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add rice and stir until grains are all coated in butter. Ladle 1/4 cup simmering stock into rice mixture and stir constantly until stock has been absorbed.

Continue to add stock and stir in this manner until all stock has been added and rice is creamy and just tender to the bite. This process should take between 15 and 20 minutes. Stir constantly so rice does not stick to bottom of pan. (Rice can be cooked 2 to 3 hours ahead. Cool and cover loosely with lid or foil. You can leave rice at cool room temperature. Reheat, stirring constantly, over medium heat.)

When ready to serve, stir cheese into hot rice until it melts. Add broccoli, ham and lemon zest. Taste and, if desired, season with salt and pepper (mixture will probably be salty enough because of cheese and ham, but you may want to add pepper). Divide rice among 4 shallow bowls and sprinkle each portion with chopped parsley.

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