At the St. Moritz Gourmet Festival this year, I met a journalist from the Swiss canton of Uri — one of Switzerland’s three founding cantons. When I asked her about culinary specialties from this area, it surprised me when she described a dish made with risotto and leeks. I had always associated risotto in Switzerland with the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. How did Uri get known for risotto?
First, I should have had a better sense of Swiss geography, as the southern part of Uri shares a border with Ticino. In addition, the Gotthard Pass—an important historic, economic and cultural trans-Alpine route from northern to southern Europe—connects this canton to Ticino and Italy. Italian influences can be seen in the architecture of Altdorf, the capital of Uri, and also in its cuisine, like the risotto dish suggested by the Urner journalist—Ryys und Boor (rice and leeks). One theory connects the origin of this dish to the Italian miners who worked to build the Gotthard rail line, which opened in 1882. Made without meat, it was apparently popular during Lent, according to Uri’s tourism office.
I have found several variations Ryys und Boor, almost all with different spellings of the name: Rys und Pohr from Swissmilk, Rys Pohr from Helvetibox and Riis und Bohr from SRF. You will see that some recipes call for potatoes, and many use fried rings of onion as a garnish. All of the recipes seem to use a lot of butter, which gives it a delicious, creamy texture. For my version, I have borrowed from the SRF recipe that adds mushrooms, which I used as a topping, instead of the fried onions. I have tried it with and without the potatoes, and I like it both ways. It’s a hearty, filling dish that you could imagine would be very satisfying after a long day of hard work.
Ryys und Boor
- About 5-6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cups leeks, chopped
- 2 cups risotto
- 1/4 cup white wine
- about 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 large potatoes, diced and boiled (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 cup Sbrinz or Parmesan cheese, grated
- about 1-2 cups of fresh mushrooms, roughly chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
- fresh chervil (optional), to garnish
- In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Next, add the chopped leeks. Cook the leeks for about 5 minutes until they become soft and tender.
- Add the risotto to the saucepan, stirring it until evenly distributed with the leeks and it begins to turn translucent. Next, add the wine and stir until absorbed.
- Stirring frequently, add the vegetable broth one cup at a time until the rice becomes tender, about 15-30 minutes.
- Gently stir in the pre-cooked diced potatoes and the remaining butter, about 3-4 tablespoons.
- While keeping the risotto warm over low heat, quickly sauté the mushrooms in the remaining butter, about a tablespoon.
- To serve, dish up the risotto on individuals plates or bowls, and top with some grated cheese, sautéed mushrooms and some fresh chervil.
How do you make Ryys und Boor? What are your favorite Urner specialties? Please leave a comment below or send me an email. Many thanks!