As Summer starts to fade into Fall, we start craving cozier dishes. Chef Ken Durbin says a classic risotto is his go-to this time of year.
"I love a wild mushroom risotto, topped with fresh chive oil and shaved black truffles," he says. "It's the epitome of seasonal home cooking and comfort food."
Durbin says the Summer truffles he prefers are shipped fresh from Australia. “They’re unreal,” Durbin adds, “but for most ingredients, I source locally from farmers and purveyors within 30 minutes of Cincinnati. It just tastes better, I think. Plus, I enjoy either picking the ingredients myself or connecting with those who did.”
When it comes to making risotto, Durbin says it’s more of a technique than a dish. “Once you get a feel for the basic steps of toasting the rice, slowly adding in the broth, and picking which veggies or proteins for the flavors or textures you want, a whole world of dishes opens up,” he says. “But it does take patience and experience to get it just right.”
Durbin says Arborio rice is the most common short-grain rice used to make risotto. “But if you can't find arborio rice, you can use carnaroli, maratelli or other varieties of Italian risotto rice,” he adds.
The secret to success with risotto is slowly adding hot broth to the rice. “It helps release the starches, giving risotto the silky, creamy texture it’s known for,” he explains.
Durbin’s last bit of advice when it comes to making risotto is to have everything ready before you step up to the stove. “Get it all measured, chopped, and ready — even the bowls to serve it in,” he says. “Risotto waits for no one and is perfect the second it’s done.”
He says dishes like this are ideal for hiring a private chef for a dinner party. “A dish like this is going to be a crowd pleaser for sure, but when you’re hosting, you dont want to have all your attention on the food,” he says. “I handle that so you can enjoy your guests and make memories.”
And while he has his favorite dishes, Durbin says he’s never repeated a menu, even after a decade of being a private chef and owning The At Home Chef. "Each dinner is tailored to what's in season, favorite foods, any dietary or cultural preferences, and what kind of experience the client is wanting to create,” he explains. “Then I come up with a menu that’s unique and completely custom to them.”
The At Home Chef not only handles all the ingredient sourcing from local farms and businesses and the cooking. They also take care of everything else, like serving your guests, clearing the table, cleaning the kitchen and taking out the trash (click here to see our recent review).
Durbin says the process for creating a dinner party experience is simple. "There’s usually something in particular that they’re celebrating, so I gather that information, along with the date, location and how many people they’re expecting, and we build a dinner party experience together from there,” he explains.
Creating an experience and helping people enjoy life is what it’s all about for Durbin.
“Personally and professionally, ’Enjoy Life’ has just always been my mantra,” he says. “That’s why I love being a private chef. I’m like an artist, creating moments and memories for people, and food is my medium.”
This episode of "What's Ken Cooking" was filmed at The Crossing at Tanners Creek in Lawrenceburg Indiana.