Monday, May 11, 2015

Something From Nothing #33: Basic Risotto

I wasn't a big risotto maker until recently. I wasn't even a big risotto eater until recently when I discovered how delicious it is, and how easy it is to make. The basic dish is little more than rice and broth which is cooked slowly, and built on from there.

Risotto begins with the starchy, short grained Arborio rice, named after the town in Italy in which it is grown. Affordable and widely available in most well stock grocery stores, this rice is starchier and creamier than most other types of rice. It is the cooking process that makes it just that little bit different, and to some, just that little bit intimidating.

There's really not that much skill required to make a decent risotto, just a little bit of time and patience. As you can see by my photos, once you get the basic recipe down you can add anything you would like to it. The day I made this I had some odds and ends in the fridge which I threw in and made a restaurant quality meal in just minutes.

So take my advice here. Go buy some Aborio rice and some vegetable or chicken stock and keep them in your cupboard for a rainy day. Then, on said rainy day, cook it up and clean out the fridge and the freezer, throwing all the good things you find on top. You can thank me later, because you know you aren't supposed to talk with your mouth full.

Basic Risotto

1 tablespoon oil
1 - 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock (2/3 of a cup can be replaced with white wine if desired), warm or at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a large frying pan over medium high heat. Once the pan is heated, add oil and rice. Stir to coat rice with oil.

When the rice is coated and everything is good and hot, add broth a couple of ladles (the ladle I used was 6 ounces) at a time, stirring in after each addition. Pan should remain hot enough that the stock sizzles when it is added, but not so hot that it immediately evaporates and boils vigorously so, adjust your stove temperature accordingly.

Once broth is absorbed and the rice separates for a couple of seconds when a wooden spoon is dragged through it, add a couple of more ladles full and repeat the process until most or all of the stock is added. This should take about 20 - 30 minutes. Rice should be creamy, yet sightly firm in the center when done.

One little note here: Some people think that they need to stir their risotto constantly. Even though I do stir frequently, I don't think that it needs the constant stirring to be great. So settle down and answer the telephone. It will be OK.

Add butter to finish rice, stirring well to combine.

At this point you can add any spices, herbs and/or other ingredients that you desire. I like to add a nice big handful of Parmesan or Asiago cheese, garlic, sauteed shallots, fresh or frozen peas, prosciutto, bacon, asparagus, mushrooms, or, well, you get the idea. You are only limited by your own imagination.

Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as an appetizer

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