02 June 2014

Eats: risotto, the right way

A little while ago, I found myself at a business dinner late on a Sunday night. It was held at one of those fancy restaurants that limits their menu (i.e. cleans out the fridge) on Sunday nights, so the selections were a bit slim. The only thing that seemed vaguely appealing was a quail risotto, so that’s what I ordered. And even though I wasn’t really in the mood for risotto (or, for that matter, QUAIL) it was at least a startling realization: I have totally been making fake risotto.

I’ve become so accustomed to baked risotto that I’d forgotten what real risotto is. It’s creamy, not mushy, with a bit of a bite to the rice. The restaurant’s risotto wasn’t my favorite (too much liquid), but at least it inspired me to try making risotto the right way.

The other thing that inspired me: store-brand Arborio rice! So if I screw it up, it’s not a huge cost investment!

But the directions on the back of the bag? Yowza. The first time I made it, I put my skepticism aside and tried following those directions, which basically say to add rice to 1.5-volumes of liquid and cook all at once. Uh, no. That did not make a good risotto. Maybe I make cheater’s risotto, but even I know there should be at least three times as much liquid as rice.

So I googled around and found a consensus for several tips that got me back in the real-risotto game! And here’s how I did it.

First, you need to toast the rice. This can be done in a dry pan, but I wanted to add some sautéed garlic to the risotto, so I cooked the minced garlic in butter first.

Then I added the rice and tossed it over the heat, until it was just ever so slightly starting to brown.

So that’s tip #1: toast your rice. While I was doing that, I started on tip #2: preheat the broth.

I didn’t use anything fancy – I just measured three times as much store-brand chicken broth as rice, and set it simmering on the stove next to the rice.

The idea behind the hot broth is that when you add cold or even room temperature broth to the cooking rice, the temperature dips. And those temperature fluctuations lead to inconsistently cooked rice. Some people say the broth-heating step is unnecessary, but I felt like it made a difference... so, to each his own.

On the other hand, the first thing you should add to the toasted rice in the pan is COLD wine. That’s tip #3. For once I used wine meant for drinking and I’ll be honest... it made a difference in the finished product. I used somewhere between half a cup and a full cup for the one cup of rice, and the crisp, fruity flavor was definitely present in the finished dish.

Ok! Bring the wine with the rice to a light boil, then simmer while stirring until most of the liquid is gone. Then you know the drill... add the hot broth, half to a full cup at a time, and stir stir stir until the liquid is gone. Then REPEAT.

Finally, add your seasonings, parmesan, and any additional butter or salt at the end. And stir one last time!

Yes, it takes time... but if you take the time to add those other tips in the process, it’s worth it in the end! Promise!

Though don’t get me wrong... I’m still a fan of baked risotto, especially in the wintertime when running the oven for an hour doesn’t seem so awful. But when you want to fancy it up (and make your risotto much more creamy and less mushy), this is the way to go! Enjoy!

Finally, this week’s meal plan:

Sunday: leftovers, because I also made a dessert I’ll share soon!

Monday: linguine alfredo with broccoli and peas

Tuesday: Taco Tuesday, y’all

Wednesday: General Tso’s chicken (thanks, Trader Joe’s, for the bottled sauce) with rice and roasted broccoli

Thursday: chicken & rice enchiladas

Friday: leftovers, unless I finagle a date night or takeout

Saturday: three-meat focaccia pizza with salad, plus another fun dessert (I’m in a dessert mood nowadays)

That’s the eats for this week! Have a great week, dear readers. Happy June! Stay in the air conditioning!


cheesemonkeysf said...

OK, buckle up, because I'm about to blow your mind.

You can make midweek risotto that is 85% as good as the long-stirring method using a pressure cooker.

The basic formula is: olive oil to saute some diced onion plus 1 cup of arborio rice, add in 2 cups of water plus whatever you want to flavor the risotto, put the pressure lid on and pressurize.

Heat on medium high until the PC starts hissing, then turn down and cook on high pressure (low heat) for 7 minutes.

Depressurize the PC, stir in some parmesan and/or herbs, and you have dinner.

Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)