Simple Basic Risotto – How can we go wrong? – recipe

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Chicken soup for the soul.  A heaping mound of mashed potatoes.  Mac and cheese.  Risotto is every comfort food rolled into one unique dish.  And, it’s pretty quick and easy.

Winter is just about to move into retirement here.  Too bad I hadn’t tried this dish sooner.  It’s the perfect food to keep everyone warm on those cold snowy days.  It’s one of those stick to your ribs kind of things.  When your stomach says, I’m really empty, this is the stuff you know will keep it happy for hours.

“How can we go wrong?” is the question.  It’s chicken soup, starch, fat, cheese combined together in one super charged dish.  How can we go wrong?  The basis of risotto is rice.  Rice is one of the easiest things in the world to cook.  If it wasn’t, half the world’s population wouldn’t be eating it every day.  How can we go wrong?  In contrast to all the complicated recipes on the web,  keep it simple and it won’t go wrong.

The first thing to learn is, risotto is rice.  Risotto requires a special kind of rice.  The most common, and probably least expensive, rice used for risotto is arborio rice.  Arborio rice  is 2 to 3 times as expensive as long grain white rice.  In the long run, it’s not going to set you back that much, so save your change and buy the right kind of rice.  Read the package directions.  At least on my package, the enlightening moment came when there were directions for cooking arborio rice just like any other rice.  Most risotto web recipes call for constant stirring while adding small quantities of fluid for twenty or twenty-five minutes to the rice in an uncovered pot until the perfect texture and fluidity are obtained.   It ain’t that hard to get good results.

The quantities for this recipe are based on the fact that canned broth comes in roughly 14 ounce cans.  The package directions for this arborio rice, specified  a ratio of 1 part rice to 2 parts fluid.  Using that proportion to the 2 cans of  broth,  and a fudge factor to allow for a little wetter rice, I came up with 1.5 cups of arborio rice.  Since Aborio rice seems to be thirsty by nature, I also added a little extra fluid by rinsing each can with 1/4 cup of water and adding that to the broth.

Every risotto recipe says heat the broth before adding to the rice.  Since this has been done for centuries, I figured there just might just be something to it.  So follow best practices here.  Plus, if anyone’s watching it makes you look like you know what you’re doing.

1/4 cup minced onion

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1.5 cups arborio rice

2 – 14 ounce cans chicken broth,  or vegetable broth for vegetarian option

1/2 cup chicken (vegetable) broth can rinsings, rinse each can with 1/4 cup water, add to the broth in a pot

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons butter

Add the broth and broth can rinsings to a small pot.  Heat on medium to get the broth hot.

Add the onion, garlic and olive oil to another medium pot (at least 2 quarts size).  Simmer for about 3 minutes.  Add the dry rice, salt and pepper to the medium pot.   Stir about 3 minutes so that the oil mixture coats all the rice and the edges of the rice get a little translucent.  Raise the heat to at least medium.  Add about a third of the hot  broth.  Use a ladle to transfer the liquid, or make sure you’re a really good pourer.  Stir and bring to a simmer.  You may need to adjust the heat.  Once simmering, add the rest of the hot broth minus about 1/2 cup.  Stir until simmering again.  Lower the heat to very low.  Put a tight lid on the pot.  Simmer gently for about 18 minutes.  The package directions will give you a clue about how long to simmer. 

Check your rice after 18 minutes.  It should be just about perfect.  Taste the risotto.  The rice should  be soft, a little chewy, but certainly not mushy.  If  the rice is tough or appears too watery, replace the lid and simmer for another few minutes.  If it appears too dry, stir in some of the 1/2 cup of broth you reserved.  Simmer another minute.    The degree of wetness you want in the finished risotto is up to you, that’s why we reserved 1/2 cup of broth. You can adjust  the wetness at the end.  Most recipes say the rice should not be dry.  There should be just a little more fluid than the rice can absorb.  But that’s up to you.  I’ve made mine dry and wet,  and it tastes just as good either way.   Remove the pot from the heat.  Stir in the butter and parmesan cheese.

Gentle simmering is the key to making any rice.  I have stainless steel pots with stainless steel lids.  When I reach a gentle simmer the lids basically float on the steam in the pot, allowing me to give the lid a push around which will spin the lid for about 10 seconds.  This probably won’t work for a glass lid (too heavy ?).  But let me tell you, it’s fun.  If my lid starts to rock back and forth and spew starchy water out, the heat is too high.  If the lid doesn’t float, the heat is too low.  Find your own test for a gentle simmer.  Remember it.

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