Sunday, May 1, 2011

Risotto....don't be afraid!

For the longest time I considered Risotto to be a "restaurant" dish. It was one that seemed difficult and time consuming dish to tackle.  Then I decided to get over myself and just make it already. I will be honest, I made a lot of rookie mistakes but the end result was pretty good...good enough that I wanted to try again and get it right. I did some more research , figured out how to fix my mistakes and tried it I rarely use regular white rice...we all like the rich creamy risotto so much better!
Risotto is a dish but also describes the technique...and once you get the technique down you will have a blank canvas  to create an endless array of dishes from a first course through dessert!
Today I will give you the basics...but feel free to experiment! Now go get some Arborio rice and a heavy wide shallow saute pan and get started. Terms to know: Soffrito = aromatics, Brodo = hot liquid used to cook and flavor the rice, Condimenti = stir in additions like veggies or cheese or meats that you add toward the end of cooking.
To make Risotto requires 3 steps: sweating your soffrito, deglazing the pan and simmering. Step one, sweating the soffrito. This simply means to lightly saute your soffrito (like onion, garlic, celery, shallots, and/or spices, ect) in a fat of some kind (such as olive oil, butter, pan drippings, ect). This releases the flavors and softens the soffrito to make a base for the risotto.  You then add your aborio rice and stir to coat the rice with the fat in your sweated soffrito. The 2nd step is deglazing your pan. To do this you add 1 cup of your hot brodo(or a totally different liquid to add depth) (brodo ideas...stock,wine, seasoned water, ect) and stirring continually to release the starch...the 3rd step, simmering is simply adding brodo cup by cup as it is absorbed by the rice (it usually is approx. 1 cup rice to 4-6 cups brodo) Your rice may need more or less brodo than the recipe calls for (if you need to you can always add a little hot water if you run out) You really do need to stir the rice alot. The rice is done and no more brodo is needed when the grains are a little al dente...or they have a little bite but are not hard. Toward the end you can stir in your condimenti.

Here is a basic Risotto for a first or main course:
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
For Brodo: simmer and keep hot 6 cups chicken stock
For Condimenti: bacon cooked until crisped and crumbled
                   1 lb of asparagus sauteed until tender            
                    1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated
For Soffrito: 2 tbl minced shallot
                   2 tsp minced garlic
                   2 cups fresh spinach
                    1 tbl olive oil
For Deglaze: 1 cup white wine

Sweat the soffrito (do NOT brown) in olive oil until translucent. Stir in rice. Cook a few minutes then add the deglazing wine. stir until completely absorbed. Add brodo to the pan 1/2 to 1 cup increments...simmer and stir until liquid is absorbed...repeat with brodo letting liquid absorb between. This may take up to 40 minutes..test rice. Stir in Condimenti. season with salt and pepper.  serve ( sprinkle with some bacon and chives if you like.

Remember: you must use Arborio rice, you must stir almost constantly to release the starch that makes risotto's creamy texture, keep your brodo hot so as to not 'shock' the rice.
I will share other risotto recipes recipes (including dessert) in the future, Let me know when you get the nerve up to give this a try...I would love to hear about your experience.

         Brodo: Beef, veggie, and chicken stock.  Red or white wine. Coconut milk or water, milk  
         Deglaze: wines, beer, juices, rum, stock
          Soffrito: spices, veggies
          Condimenti: cooked meats, shrip, seafood, varies cheeses, dried fruit, veggies

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