(CNN) — Piedmont, a region in northwest Italy, is all about risotto. And the beating heart of this food tradition is the city of Vercelli, where risottorie, restaurants specializing in risotto, are everywhere. One of the best places to try it in Italy's rice capital is tucked at the back of a 1960s tourist hotel, called Hotel Cinzia. Christian and Manuel Restaurant is run by two brothers who give this dish a modern twist.
Christian and Manuel Costardi's signature version is a risotto with Grana Padano cream, beer reduction and coffee. It's supposed to taste like cappuccino or tiramisu, but risotto — all in one dish. The menu offers a selection of 20 risottos, according to the Michelin Guide, and the chef-owners' unique dishes earned them a Michelin star.
Inspired by Andy Warhol's "Campbell's Soup Cans," the Costardi brothers playfully serve the risotto in individual metal cans.
"This is completely changing everything I thought about risotto," Stanley Tucci said while watching the dish being prepared during an episode of "Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy." "That's a revelation. That's a thousand things in one can. Wow!" Tucci's first introduction to risotto was his mother's risotto Milanese, which is featured in "The Tucci Cookbook." For the rice, he recommends looking for brands marked superfine Carnaroli. If that's not available, buy a superfine Arborio or Vialone Nano rice, which is in most supermarkets.
Tucci says there are two important steps to remember when making risotto:
"First, before adding any liquid, make sure to heat the rice well," he wrote in his cookbook. "This will seal the rice grains and helps to keep them from overcooking. Second, test the rice for the desired texture after it has cooked for 12 to 15 minutes. Risotto may be served al dente, with a slight crispness to the bite, or with a softer consistency -- the choice is yours. ... Just don't overcook risotto or it'll turn into paste."
Risotto With Grana Padano Cream, Beer Reduction and Coffee
(Risotto con Crema di Grana Padano, Riduzione di Birra e Caffè)
Repurpose four clean soup cans for serving or use plates if you prefer. If you'd like to prepare your own vegetable broth, make it ahead. The Costardis suggest incorporating celery, carrot and slightly charred onion into the broth.
At Christian and Manuel, the Costardis use Cervia sea salt, from the Adriatic coast, and Sarawak black peppercorns, which you can find in specialty stores or online if you'd like to try them out.
Makes 4 servings
4 cups | 1 liter lager beer
3.5 ounces + ½ ounce | 100 grams + 15 grams Grana Padano (similar to Parmigiano Reggiano cheese), aged 27 months, freshly grated
1 cup | ¼ liter whipping cream
1 ¼ cups | 300 grams Carnaroli rice
Sea salt (medium coarse)
Freshly ground black pepper
About 12 ½ cups | 3 liters store-bought vegetable broth, plus more if needed
1/3 cup | 25 grams cold unsalted butter
Ground coffee, preferably Arabica
Jam funnel (if serving in cans)
1. First, start preparing the beer reduction. Put the beer in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let the beer reduce until the consistency is like a soft caramel, about 45 minutes. As the beer reduces, the alcohol evaporates, and the remaining liquid has a concentration of flavor in which spicy notes are enhanced. Remove from heat and let cool (this is best done the day before; once cooled, refrigerate overnight in an airtight container).
2. Prepare the cream of Grana Padano. Using a cheese grater or microplane, grate 3.5 ounces (100 grams) Grana Padano. Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) and add the Grana Padano. Whip the cream with a whisk until it's a smooth mixture, maintaining temperature at 100 F (40 C). At higher temperatures, there is a risk of not obtaining a homogeneous cream. If the cream is not smooth, pass it through a sieve and simmer at 100 F (40 C).
3. Proceed with the preparation of the risotto. In a risotto pot, toast the rice dry over medium heat, shaking the pot and stirring the rice until it sings, 2 to 3 minutes. Don't let the rice burn. Add a pinch of salt and a grating of pepper. Continue cooking at high heat and add the vegetable broth a little at a time, stirring continuously after each addition and allowing the rice to absorb it. Cook, constantly stirring, until the rice is al dente with a slight bite in the center of the grain, 15 to 20 minutes. The risotto should look creamy in texture. Check the taste and remove from heat. Add the cold butter and remaining ½ ounce (15 grams) Grana Padano to the pot and shake, using a wavelike motion (see video), to incorporate in the rice.
4. If you are serving in cans: Put a sprinkling of the coffee grounds and a few drops of beer reduction on the bottom of the can. With the help of a jam funnel, add the rice, the Grana Padano cream, the coffee grounds and beer reduction.
5. If you are using plates: Spread the risotto on each plate, add the Grana Padano cream, sprinkle with coffee grounds and finish with the beer reduction.