The Basics: Risotto

Alright, did you make the stock from last week? Nicceeee. If not, there’s still time! 

As promised,  you’re about to take your skills up a level.  Now you’re ready to make a risotto from scratch. I used to watch Chopped,  Hell’s Kitchen, and other shows and idolize risotto. Clearly it was the pinnacle of kitchen skills– everyone was always yelling about it…

It’s less romantic for me now,  but still delicious, and surprisingly simple! Look, I know the rice cooker has been good to you,  but there’s something awesome about making rice the old-fashioned way– especially for this.

Smoked Shrimp

You need arborio rice (which has very short grains) and stock to make this one. Because of the way it expands, I usually portion it out with one handful of dry rice per serving. For me, that’s about a cup. You’ll probably need about a tablespoon of butter, and some olive oil in reserve, and your choice of aromatics (shallots, garlic, leeks, etc).

This time,  I had a lot of mushrooms to use up (about 3 cups),  so I prepared them two ways: the normal sized ones went in the oven to roast, and the smaller ones went into a quick mushroom stock. Slowly warm butter, and a little olive oil in a wide pan with thinly sliced aromatics– and make sure they’re thin! It’s going to slowly dissolve into the risotto as it cooks, and add a lot of awesome flavor.

I’ve learned to keep the heat around medium for risotto; you don’t want to caramelize things here, but rather cook the shallots and rice until translucent. Equal parts butter and olive oil will get you there, then your stock will push it over the line.  This risotto was fully vegetarian,  so the stock only contained mushrooms,  garlic, green onions and a few herbs and spices.

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Once the butter melts, add your aromatics, and rice. Stir to coat evenly, and add a splash of wine if the pan starts to dry out. Here’s the trick: you need to add stock in small batches to allow the rice to absorb it gradually. Add about 1/2 cup at a time and stir sparingly to distribute it in the pan. Then watch, wait, and repeat. The rice will start to expand, and the stock will disappear. It may take ten or fifteen minutes, but it will work. If you have a dry white wine on hand, go ahead and add about 1/4 of a cup at the beginning to give it time for the alcohol to cook out.

Remember those roasted mushrooms? Carefully add them  them into the risotto in between different rounds of stock. You see how the rice’s texture is starting to change? I don’t add cream to risotto– that’s all the starch from the rice! I do usually finish it up with grated parmesan though; I added some fresh rosemary and thyme too.

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You’ll probably notice that the main photo looks a little wet– let me explain. I threw in spinach toward the end of the cooking, and of course it releases a lot of water as it cooks. I basically replaced the last splash of stock with the spinach, and let the water boil off for another minute to finish the cooking process. You could also add a final splash of wine at the end– or just a little lemon juice– for a final infusion of flavor.

This could easily end up as a side dish,  but if you really want to show off,  serve this as the main course and top it with some extra grated cheese and fresh arugula. You’re welcome. 

So overall, this wasn’t too painful, right? You can use risotto to carry a wide variety of flavors. That first picture had saffron and almonds, and I’ve tried so many different combinations since then. You can check earlier posts if you need more specific ingredient amounts, but I tend to switch things up pretty often. Like I said, these posts are about building your instincts. You don’t need a recipe!

Is risotto going to be your next meal? Was this helpful? Let me know how yours turned out, and tag me @craving_mad if you want me to feature you on Instagram. If there are other topics you want me to break down,  I am open for suggestions too. 

 

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