In last week’s Food Production I class, we made one of my favorites: Italian risotto. I was glad we had the chance to make it, not only because I love it, but also because the last batch I made at home was kinda awful.
Reason being, you just can’t leave it. Once you start, you stay with it. Which can be kinda impossible with a two-year-old in the house. I had to turn off the heat and avert some sort of disaster (can’t remember what), and the rice got soggy on the outside before cooking through.
Properly cooked, risotto is creamy, rich and savory, without a bit of cream added. This is due to the particular kind of rice used, arborio, which is short-grained and very starchy.
Wanna give it a shot? Sure you do. It’s fairly easy once you get the procedure down.
1. Sweat it out. I mean, your aromatics. By aromatics, I mean veggies and such that will infuse the rice with flavor, smell and overall yumminess. And by sweat, I mean sauté in a bit of oil without browning, just enough to release some of the liquid in the veggies. This usually includes a mirepoix (carrots, celery and onion), as did ours at a precise 1/8″ dice, but can also include garlic and mushrooms (we added the mushrooms). Use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup veggies of your choosing, pre-diced before you start heating the pan.
2. Get toasty. Add one cup of arborio rice to the pan with no liquid to toast it a bit. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon or heat-resistant spatula and wait. This essential risotto step adds depth of flavor and a bit of color. But don’t burn it, for heaven’s sake…more work to be done.
3. Ladle it on. While some cooks swear that the stock you add to a risotto has to be hot, our chef instructor said it wasn’t necessary. He was right; ours turned out fine. Your call. Either way, you’ll need about a quart of stock for one cup of dry rice. Homemade would be great, but canned/boxed works.
The trick: don’t add it all at once. Add just one ladle-full at a time, and stir gently until it’s absorbed, a few minutes. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Somewhere in here, you can add in a 1/2 cup of dry white wine, if you want. Also, if you have some fresh or dried herbs, add ’em now, closer to the end of the process so they don’t get bitter. I used some fresh rosemary and lemon zest.
This section can take 30 minutes or more, so be patient.
4. Get cheesy. When all the liquid is absorbed, fold in 1/2 cup (or more!) of freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese. Please, for the love of all things holy, don’t use the stuff in a can.
5. Meet the meat. If you choose to have any proteins (read: meat) in your risotto (we didn’t), have it already diced/shredded/whatever before you start. Then, when all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through, gently fold in the meat. Trust me, it’s fine without it. You could also fold in leftover meat and/or veggies for a lovely second-round stretch of a previous meal.
6. Consume rapidly. We bought some take-home cups from the school restaurant and carried it home for later noms. That is, after snarfing about half of it on the spot. Totally delish!