If the thought of making your own risotto scares you, it shouldn't. All those warnings from little old ladies about leaning over the steaming pot for an hour, stirring only in one direction while doing a little jig to to appease the risotto gods is just plain hogwash. A simple risotto can be made in less than 30 minutes and you can be working on other parts of the meal while it perks away on the stove.
Some thoughts before I give you the recipe:
- Risotto is typically made with short-grain starchy rices, Carnaroli and Arborio being the most popular choices. The high starch content leaches out of the rice slowly in order to create that creamy sauce. You can make risotto out of any rice (except maybe wild rice) but it might not be as creamy. I've also seen it made with Orzo pasta.
- Don't skip the butter and cheese. While it may seem unnecessary to have the added fat, believe it or not, these items both contribute to the sauce. Without them, you'll have runny or less-creamy risotto.
2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock or other flavorful liquid
1/2 cup white or red wine (optional)
1 cup risotto rice (see above)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion or 1 chopped shallot
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper to taste
Frozen vegetables, canned beans, or small chunks of cooked meat (optional)
1) Heat the chicken stock in a separate pot on the stove and leave it hot or simmering. You want it hot so it doesn't stop the cooking when added to the rice.
2) In a heavy, wide pot, begin sweating the onions in olive oil and a pinch of salt. You're looking to soften them, not brown them.
3) Add the dry rice to the onions and oil and stir. Coat all the rice with oil (add more if needed) and stir until it begins to turn translucent (less than a minute).
4) Add the wine or 1/2 cup of the chicken stock. Scrape any bits off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook 1 minute.
5) Add two soup ladles full of the stock to the rice. Stir and let it simmer (heavy bubbling) until most of the liquid is absorbed. If you can drag the spoon through the rice and see the bottom of the pan dry for a moment, it's time for the next liquid addition.
6) Repeat adding two ladles of stock and cooking down til absorbed until you get close to the end of your stock, stirring periodically to prevent sticking. Begin tasting the rice to see if it has softened enough to your liking. If you run out of stock, use hot water.
7) If using vegetables or meat that only need reheating, add them towards the end of the cooking time.
8) Once the rice is tender, make it a little soupy by adding more liquid if needed and remove from the heat. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time and stir until it has blended-in. Stir-in the Parmesan cheese in as well. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately as the rice will congeal if left to sit.
9) Risotto stores quite well for lunch the next day. When reheating in the microwave, add a little water and heat partially covered at 70% power, stirring periodically.
In case you're wondering, the risotto in the picture has frozen broccoli that I cut smaller and some leftover kidney beans. I'll typically add whatever veggies or mushrooms I have hanging around and some pulled leftover chicken that I usually keep in the freezer. You can also sauté chicken breast chunks in the pot before making the risotto. Just put them aside in a bowl and add them back in at the end.