28 November 2011

Eats: oven-baked risotto

Welcome back from the holiday weekend, everyone! Are you ready to eat more?

Yeah, me neither. On Thursday we had “football food” for the Packers game in addition to the traditional Thanksgiving meal. On Friday my parents made ribs, and that evening we went out to dinner where I force-fed myself like a Christmas goose. Saturday I ate virtually nothing but leftover macaroni and cheese. Sunday I considered maybe taking up running again. And then I didn’t.

I almost don’t even want to discuss food today.

But I will, because today I’m going to share on of my favorite recipes. I’m so excited to tell you about it, because it essentially makes one of my favorite dishes, risotto, without all the hard work normally associated with it. Technically, it’s not “risotto” unless you spend an hour stirring a pot on the stove, slowly adding broth every ten minutes, adjusting the heat on the stove every so often, pondering why you thought making risotto was a good idea. So I’m calling this “oven-baked risotto” instead, and it’s based on this recipe.

Like real risotto, you start with these:

Arborio rice and chicken broth. You use 1/3 cup rice per cup of broth, so I usually use this whole 4-cup carton of broth and 1 1/3 cup rice. Low-sodium broth isn’t necessary, but I prefer to use the lower salt version and add salt to taste if needed (which it never has).

You also need a dutch oven or oven-safe pot or casserole dish. If you’re lucky to have an incredible sister-in-law like me, you can use your awesome red Le Creuset that you received as a wedding gift.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and stir the rice and broth together in the pot. Preparation: DONE. Stick the pot in the oven and congratulate yourself for using your time efficiently.

For the amounts I listed above, it takes about 45 minutes for all the liquid to be absorbed by the rice. I usually take it out and give it a stir it halfway though, or about 25 minutes in. It should look like this halfway through. Note in the above photo, all the rice is below the surface of the broth; now it isn’t, but there is still plenty of unabsorbed liquid:

When all the liquid is absorbed, you should have this amazingly creamy rice:

Ta-da! Forget the technicalities, that is a tasty-looking risotto. If you’re a pasta lover like me, that probably looks delicious even though it’s plain. But it’s definitely better gussied up with some parmesan, mozzarella (a handful each is good), garlic powder (or sauté some garlic separately), and black pepper:

Oh, and this. Three tablespoons is tasty without feeling like you’re killing yourself:

Mmmmm. If you’re feeling especially virtuous or want to bulk it up as a side, you can stir in some spinach, as shown below and as seen here. Although, I just boil and drain half a bag of the frozen stuff (about five ounces), because I’m lazy.

But of course, I like it just fine without all that healthy green stuff. Like I said, it’s one of my favorite dishes, despite the long baking time and relatively high cost of arborio rice and lack of any redeeming nutritional qualities. Mr. P likes it well enough, though he likens it to cheesy grits. Whereas to me, it’s almost like a fancier macaroni and cheese. And we all know how I feel about that.

Give it a try! And unless you are having an Italian over for dinner? Go ahead and just call it “risotto” and let everyone think you stood over the stove for an hour. I won’t tell.