Sunday, April 12, 2009

Back to Basics: Risotto

Risotto gets a bad rep. It’s really simple, but it’s one of those things that so many people I talk to think is complicated and time-consuming, when nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a quick side dish, or an impressive main dish (if you add protein and other ingredients), and you can probably make the basic version with what’s already in your cupboard/fridge. (Ok, you might have to buy Arborio rice the first time out. Trust me on this: it’s the best with Arborio rice. Other rice will work, even pearl barley can be prepared with this method, but nothing will have quite the smooth creaminess of Arborio rice. I’m just sayin’.)

Just FYI, except for the bacon and wine, the recipe below is SUPER basic. I added the pancetta/bacon because I had some, and you can use 2 cups of stock instead of a mixture of wine and stock.

The Recipe:
Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main dish

1 Tbs olive oil
½ large onion (or ½ cup frozen chopped onion)
4 oz pancetta or bacon, chopped (if using bacon, about 4 thick-cut strips)
½ cup Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
1 ½ cup low-sodium chicken stock*
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs cold butter (if you’re using bacon or pancetta, use unsalted butter)*

*The low-sodium part is important, because as it reduces, the salty flavor will intensify in the rice. Same for the butter.

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and the onion, and sauté until the onion becomes translucent and the bacon begins to crisp. Add the rice and continue to sauté for a few minutes more, until the rice is translucent around the edges, and the bacon is crisp.

Add the wine to the chicken broth and microwave the mixture until it’s hot. Reduce the saucepan heat to low, and add the hot broth/wine mixture to the pot, about 1/3 cup at a time. After each third of a cup, give it a good stir and continue to stir it every few minutes, letting the rice absorb the liquid before adding any more.

When most of the liquid has been absorbed, leaving behind only a vague, saucy-looking bit and the rice is chewy but not mushy, take it off the heat. Add the Parmesan cheese and butter and stir.

If you want to garnish it, sprinkle a little extra cheese on top, like the picture below.

Serve ASAP – this is not a dish that gets better sitting on the counter. ;)

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