This Northern Italian rice dish is quick, cheap and versatile. It's also the last rice standing in a grocery store that is heavily shopped through. Risotto. Learn this style and add it to the rotation for a weekend lunch or light weekday dinner.
I would say that 99% of the time I make risotto, I start with mirapoix (carrots, onions & celery).
That's where this starts. I'm going to quickly go over the premise of the technique and then the pictures that follow will make more sense.
Risotto is like the idea of pilaf that I wrote about the other day, we are sautéing the grain in olive oil BEFORE we add the liquid to it. The reason we are doing this is to retain texture on the individual grains. It toasts them in a way that allows them to stay separate but together. More on that later...
The second major part of risotto (that makes it different from pilaf) is that HOT liquid is going to be added to the rice and mirepoix in stages until it is finished cooking. I like to just cover the grains with broth and with the burner on medium heat and gently stir it. This gentle friction of the grains releases the starches and is what creates the lovely, creamy texture for which risotto is known. But the idea is that you stir it until the broth is reduced down and the grains are nearing dry and then you add more liquid and repeat the process until it's cooked.
So, let's check out the slides and I'll explain it some more.
Start by Sautéing your mirepoix over medium heat in 2-3T of Olive Oil until just softened.
Next, add your risotto. Stir constantly at this stage to prevent the grains from burning. They should start to turn translucent as they absorb the oil. Saute them for 1-2 minutes stirring constantly. Add sliced garlic. (I also added a nice pinch of saffron which is why mine is so yellow)
Next, start adding your hot broth, a little bit at a time. Keep stirring to develop those starches and get it extra creamy. A good risotto cannot be made in under about 18 minutes. It's one of the OG's in slow food and the process makes the dish. There's no short cuts, you cannot just fill the pot with liquid, cover and walk away. That's rice pilaf's game, not risottos. Risotto deserves respect and if you think I'm joking, go watch the movie The Big Night.
Ok... so, as I was saying above, you are going to add the broth a little bit at a time and reduce it back (while stirring) and then add a little more broth and stir it down.. You are going to do this 4 or 5 times. Possibly more depending on how much adjusting you need to do to it towards the end. Pay attention as it gets close to being finished. You are timing the amount of liquid left in the pot with the needed amount of liquid needed to finish cooking the grain. Less is more in the final stage, consider adding it half a ladle at a time... They key factor is that it should be creamy, and the grains shouldn't be crunchy but they should have some bite. And it shouldn't be a mush. Individual grains should be visible.
Towards the end of the cooking process on the rice I took some English Peas and blanched them quickly in a little of the risotto broth, then I stirred them in. The English Peas I picked up from Tutti Fruiti Farms at the Tuesday Farmers Market
Of course Parmesan!! If you did it right, it should look like it already has cheese in it, but of course we added a generous amount of shredded parmesan to make it extra creamy!
While the Risotto finished up I turned on the griddle pan to crisp up some little medallions of Steelhead. This was just a half pound for two people. This is a small portion but Risotto is a great way to eat expensive ingredients. The flavors carry so well and the rice is so filling you can "flavor" your rice with 3-4oz of just about anything and get by with spending a few less bucks at the grocery store.
I also had some cauliflower roasting in the oven on high and I just used that as a garnish for the adults, but it was the main event in the plates we gave to the kids (they don't "like" fish).
Give it a try and let me know how it comes out!
Keep Eating Well,
Justin West, Chief of Culinary Operations, Pure Joy Catering
Basic Risotto for 4
1/2 C Onion, Small Dice
1/4 C Carrot, Small Dice
1/4 C Celery, Dice
1clove Garlic, Sliced
2 C Risotto
4-5 C Good Quality Broth
1/2 C Parmesan Cheese, Grated