Ever been intimidated by a dish like risotto? I used to be too, but over this summer I proved to myself that risotto can be a weeknight-friendly meal!
This summer we’ve been living with friends while waiting to close on a house in a neighborhood closer to work and family, and it was such a blessing that they wanted to eat my food! In exchange for a roof I (with the help of my resident sous chef and dish cleaner aka my husband) pulled together dinner on Tuesday and Sundays for whoever was home. Can the deal get any sweeter? Oh yes, because this is where we got to eat said dinner:
Talk about the perfect spot to spend a summer.
Back to risotto… My breakthrough came about with the help of the James Beard award-winning cookbook What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies (you can also check out her blog). Katie has two different recipes for risotto in this book and the clear descriptions of the process inspired me to give it a go. Now that I have the process down, I can put together any type of risotto I want, and I wanted to help open the door to this creamy wonder for you too.
First, I want to mention that the key to making risotto is to realize that once the rice ends up in the pot, you cannot do anything else until the rice is done, so you MUST practice “mise en place” and have everything prepped before you start to stir. You can check out my Tuesday Tip post from last week about the meaning and usefulness of this concept.
So what is in risotto? What makes a risotto, well, risotto is just Arobio rice (a short grain rice that has the capacity to exude a creamy starch when cooked) and broth. Yep, that’s it. Preferably I’d start with a little diced onion, butter and white wine first to give the rice more flavor, and maybe toss in some of your favorite veggies and proteins towards the end to create an easy one pot meal.
Below I have a included a bacon and mushroom risotto recipe, but first I’d like to show you my stovetop. (Okay, this isn’t my stove, but rather the stove I got to use the summer – it’s big, beautiful and best of all, RED!)
The important pots on this stove are the two on the left (the far right was for poaching an egg for the top, but when I found out my dinner guests didn’t like eggs, that was quickly scrapped). The far left is the pot that ended up containing the risotto. At the stage shown I was cooking my additional ingredients, including frying up some bacon and softening up some mushrooms. The pot in the middle has 5 cups of chicken stock (feel free to use vegetable stock if you’d like to keep your risotto vegetarian).
The general idea to make risotto is to start with several tablespoons of butter, melt it in a pot and add a chopped up onion and sauté until the onion begins to soften, then add the rice and mix to coat the rice in the buttery onions, add a little white wine and let it simmer until the wine has cooked off, then slowly add a ladleful of simmering broth at a time, stirring without ceasing to keep the rice from sitting on the bottom of the pan. You only want to add broth when most of the liquid has been absorbed into the rice, and it becomes more like mashed potatoes than soup. My rule of thumb is to pull my spoon through the rice, and if I can see the bottom of the pot for about 4 seconds before the mixture covers it back up, then it’s time for more broth. At the very end, when you have one ladleful of broth left, mix in your pre-cooked veggies and proteins (except any dairy – save those for when the pot is off the heat), add your final ladle, let that absorb, take it off the heat, and mix in a cup of freshly shredded cheese (fresh Parmesan is always a good bet with risotto) and a handful of your favorite fresh herb. And in the spirit of Julia Child, Bon Appetit! – you have dinner ready!
It really doesn’t take too long, if you keep your veggies and proteins simple. My favorites include shredded chicken (pick up a rotisserie chicken from the store to save a step), bacon, asparagus, mushrooms, and artichoke hearts.