So many people think that risotto is hard. Challenging. Arduous. That it’s some horrendously difficult dish that your wicked stepmother forces you to labor over. Okay, maybe not that bad, but they think it is harder than it really is. There are a few key things to remember, and after that, it’s just stirring. Here are the things that you need to know:
- Prep your ingredients in advance. You’ll want to have everything standing by, ready to go.
- Heat your broth or liquid in a separate pan. Just set it there, warming gently.
- Use Arborio rice, and “toast” it properly.
Arborio rice is really the key. It’s a high-starch rice and the grains are shorter than a Jasmine rice. As it cooks, it softens and lends out its starch to make the creamy, delectable dish you know and love. Don’t know it? Oh, well, you’re in for a treat.
One of the things I also love about risotto is that the recipes are nearly endless. There are some made with beef stock, some with red wine – some are meant as a first course, others as accompaniments to the main dish. I tend to make risotto as a “one-pot” meal, with vegetables and meat cooked in to keep things simple. It’s often a “fridge-cleaner” of a dish for me – what do I have in the fridge? How can I use that up? Do a little recipe searching, and you’re sure to find a version of risotto you’ll like. One of my all-time favorites is a smoked chicken and shiitake mushroom risotto that I whipped up on a cold day.
Here are the basics of cooking – I’ll leave the recipes up to you to search out on the web or in your favorite cookbooks. The process is usually the same.
- Briefly toast or cook the rice in butter or olive oil, with garlic or onion. This coats the rice with a film of fat that helps it cook properly.
- Some recipes call for an addition of red or white wine to be absorbed by the rice.
- At this point the heat is usually turned up a bit, and you begin to add your (warmed) stock or liquid gradually (I use a 1/2 cup measure), stirring gently and nearly constantly. Add the liquid until you have used it all, usually about 15 minutes (see your particular recipe for quantities and time)
- Take the risotto off the heat and add butter or parmesan, as per your recipe
- Eat at once. The risotto continues to cook, so to get the right consistency, it should be eaten immediately.
There you go – nothing to it, really. Don’t be afraid, give it a try!