Yeah, that pun was bad, even for me. I’m standing by it, though.
It’s still winter. STILL. You know, I pride myself on being relatively unaffected by the weather. It rarely stops me from doing what I want to do, and has almost no impact on my mood– usually. This winter has me all discombobulated, though. I have been in a perpetual state of “Why can’t I warm up?!?!” so I’ve been throwing together a lot of soups, and have eaten so much soup I’m feeling a bit sloshy. I decided (ok, the curriculum for week five at school decided and I agreed) that it was time for a change. Enter… Risotto.
If you’ve made it before, then you’re already familiar with how magical and comforting a bowl of creamy risotto can be. Infinitely customizeable, if you’re willing to put in the time and attention, a single pot of risotto can make a whole lotta people happy.
If you’ve never made it before… maybe because you’ve been too intimidated, or just didn’t feel like you had the time, let me assure you that 1) it’s not difficult, just a little demanding and 2) it doesn’t take nearly as long as you might think (20-25 minutes), and you can make it into a one pot meal, if you use your imagination.
If I had one tip for making risotto, it would be this: Never stop stirring. I’m being a little dramatic, but not very. The key to a creamy risotto is the stirring. Arborio rice, the type traditionally used for risotto, is a short grained rice with a very high starch content. It’s the constant stirring that allows the rice to release its starch and reach that creamy consistency.
2 medium sized pots
1 wooden spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
Containers for your mis en place
1 ounce plus 1/2 ounce butter
1/2 ounce olive oil
2 ounces finely diced onion
1 C Arborio Rice
4 ounces white wine
24 ounces chicken stock
1 ounce (or more, your call) grated Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste
Get all your mis en place together right at the start, because risotto is kinda like a new puppy or a toddler– you can’t really walk away from it for very long.
In the second pot, heat the 1/2 ounce of butter plus the olive oil. Add the onion and sweat it (no browning) 2-3 minutes over medium heat.
Add the rice and stir it to coat for about a minute and a half. Do not brown the rice.
Starting from this point, you’re going to be adding your liquid in stages. You’ll add a little… stir, stir, stir, and watch for the rice to absorb almost all of it before adding the next round of liquid. You know it’s time to add more liquid when the level of the rice is above the level of the liquid. I tend to take my time with risotto because I like it really creamy. Our recipe said to add the stock one third at a time, but I add mine about a ladle full at a time.
Start by adding the wine, stirring as you let it fully absorb into the rice.
Add your first ladle of stock. Stir until it’s absorbed. This is what mine looked like just after the first addition of stock.
You can see that the rice grains are all still very separate, and almost solid white because it hasn’t absorbed much liquid yet.
Add the stock a bit at a time (whatever amount you’re comfortable with, although I probably wouldn’t go more than 1/2 a cup at a time), continuously stirring. Make sure to keep the heat low enough that the liquid doesn’t boil. If it starts to boil, check your flame, and if necessary, take the pot off the heat for a few seconds just until the boiling subsides. It’s the low and slow cooking process that’s going to give you the creamiest risotto and prevent scorching. The recipe says the risotto should be done in 18-20 minutes, but mine tends to take about 25-28.
This is what it looked like with about five minutes to go:
Can you see the difference? The rice has given off quite a bit of starch, and the grains are no longer separate and distinct.
When the rice is done, you’ll remove it from the heat and add the remaining butter and however much cheese you like, season with salt and pepper according to your preference, then serve it on a plate.
When is it done? This is sort of up to you. I prefer mine sort of al dente, but probably not as toothy as someone from Italy would. If you want to take it all the way to the point where you can bite through the rice without any resistance, that’s really your prerogative, but if you let it go past that you just have mush, not risotto, so just be careful.
This recipe is for a really basic risotto, but let me reassure you that basic does not mean boring! It’s full of flavor, and would be a great starter to a meal. However, if you want to make things interesting you can add some blanched peas or sauteed mushrooms. Try mixing in a little pureed pumpkin or squash, or even some crispy pieces of bacon. Play around with the cheese! Instead of regular white wine, use champagne! If you make it once, you’ll soon figure out that risotto is incredibly versatile.
If you have any leftovers, you can always whip up some arancini— delicious little balls of risotto that are breaded and fried. Who wouldn’t love a snack like that?