Perfecting Risotto

Perfecting Risotto

A rich. creamy, deeply flavored risotto is my absolute favorite dish.  Risottos are simple, but don't make the mistake of thinking that they are easy.  Making a delicious, memorable risotto not only requires excellent ingredients and lots of love, but also a bit of practice.

Don't shy away though, this is an amazing and versatile dish to have in your repertoire; and when you have the basics perfected (see my recipe below for a basic (but amazing Parmesan Risotto), you can tweak the ingredients and get creative.  Like using red wine and veal stock for example or clams, lemons and parsley.  Mmm, I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

But as with anything, you need to start with the basics.  

Choosing the Rice

There really is only one type of rice to make a true Italian risotto with, and that is Arborio rice, which is a short grain white rice.  This rice has an amazing ability to get a creamy texture while still holding up and staying firm, and is a fantastic flavor vehicle.  

If you choose to do a play on a risotto, which I must admit I am known to do, I make sure that I choose a rice that will hold up well, similar to the Arborio.  For example, for Thanksgiving I make a wild rice risotto for which I use a combination of wild rice and a short grain brown rice.  These rices stay firm and add a nutty flavor to the dish, which is fantastic with bold flavors such as porcini and morel mushrooms.  But to begin with, stick with Arborio.

Choosing the Wine

I am passionate about this topic, for good reason- I am asked this question almost every day- "what kind of cooking wine should I use?"  Please forget what you have ever heard about using a "cooking wine".  There really is no such thing (people use the term to mean cheap, terrible wine), and honestly you don't have to spend a fortune to buy a decent wine to use in your dish, but be willing to spend enough ($9 often is enough) to buy a wine that you will enjoy drinking.  The adage to remember, is always cook with a wine that you would be willing to drink, which is probably what you will do with the remainder of the bottle anyway unless you are using the entire bottle in the dish.  

Also important to note about wine you use to cook with, is that is should make sense with the meal that you are preparing.  For example, choose an Italian Pinot Grigio when cooking risotto instead of say a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, even if that may be your favorite white, because the flavor profiles wouldn't make sense and compete with your meal.  On the same note, choose a French Burgundy to make Boeuf Bourguignon (which means Burgundy in French) instead of a Malbec, which would be to acidic and add competing spice characteristics. 

The final note on wine, do not cook with a white that is heavily oaky, so leave the Kendall Jackson or La Cream on the shelf.  When added to food any heavily oaky white will create artificial, chemically flavor notes that just aren't delicious.

Finally, have fun, add love into your dish, and always stir risotto with a wooden spoon!


Parmesan Risotto

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such a Pinot Grigio
  • 5 cups chicken stock (better choice than broth)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 2-inch piece of Parmigiano Reggiano rind
  • 2 tablespoons sweet onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • fresh herbs such as thyme or parsley, if desired

PREPARATION

  1. Bring both to a low simmer in a small pot.
  2. In a heavy bottomed, medium pot on medium high, add 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 tablespoon EVOO and onions.  
  3. Cook stirring constantly until onion becomes translucent, then add the rice.
  4. Stir rapidly and thoroughly until rice grains are coated well and there is a slight nutty aroma.
  5. Reduce heat to medium.
  6. Add wine and Parmigiano rind and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until liquid is fully absorbed.
  7. Add stock ½ cup at a time allowing it to absorb, stirring frequently but not constantly.
  8. When stirring, make sure you clean down the sides of the pot to incorporate all the rice and wipe the bottom of the pot to ensure that no rice sticks.
  9. After about 20 minutes of cooking, begin to taste.  Season with salt and fresh ground pepper as desired.  If using fresh thyme, add now.
  10. The risotto will be done when it is tender, but firm to the bite.  It is important to taste frequently, because as it approaches this stage, you will gradually reduce the amount of liquid that you are adding so that when it is fully cooked, it is slightly moist, but not runny.
  11. When the rice is about 1 to 2 minutes from being fully cooked, add remaining grated Parmigiano and butter.
  12. Stir well to fully incorporate and melt the cheese then remove from heat.
  13. If the rind has not fully melted, remove before serving.
  14. Serve immediately.

 

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