I’ve written before about how Mr. Foodie does not care for rice or pasta as much as some people do (me!), but what I’ve learned is that he is just picky with his rice and pasta. He likes only whole wheat pasta with a great tasting sauce. He likes flavored rice like fried rice or, one of my favorites, risotto. I learned about risotto from watching cooking shows which simultaneously left me feeling anxious about pulling off such a complicated dish and feeling comforted to know that it was, indeed, possible and even easy. I’ve now made it so many times that I don’t have to consult a recipe. It was even one of the dishes I made when Mr. Foodie and I were dating so I could impress him. But perhaps the major objection to risotto is the time and attention it takes to make it. This is a good 30-40 minute dish over which you have to preside the whole time – not everyone’s cup of tea. I personally find it relaxing. I prop up my ipad on the holder to watch a funny show while I sip white wine and ladle chicken stock – this is pretty much my happy place. The real question is: is it worth it? I answer with a resounding Yes!
Risotto is just slowly cooked rice that is very flavorful because of the various additions. My base recipe has onions, white wine, chicken stock, and parmesan cheese. To this you can add whatever you like or have on hand. Last night, I added a sauteed zucchini, but I’ve also mooned over risotto with cooked mushrooms, steamed asparagus, and oven roasted tomatoes. Risotto, like regular rice or pasta, is a great blank canvas to which you can add some amazing flavor. Of course, it is also delicious by itself as well.
I thought I’d give some step-by-step instructions for this because I do remember how intimidated I was by it when I first made it, so hopefully this will demystify it for some of you and just be interesting for the rest. I begin with 1 cup of aborio rice (the rice used to make risotto – you will not be able to get the same results with other kinds of rice), 1 diced onion, two tablespoons of olive oil or butter, 1 cup white wine (I use a chardonnay), 1 cup parmesan cheese (or to taste) and about 4 cups chicken stock which has been heated. Saute the onion in the oil until translucent, then add in the rice and stir until the rice is coated in the onions/oil. Cook for a minute on medium-low until rice has absorbed some of the oil. Add the white wine and cook until rice has absorbed most of the liquid.
From then on you will add chicken stock to the dish one ladle at a time, letting the rice soak up the stock each time before adding more. Stir the rice often to prevent it from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pan. I say “about 4 cups” of chicken stock because sometimes I use it all and sometimes I do not. I can usually tell when the rice has absorbed enough liquid because I’ve made it so many times – the object is to create a rice that is fully cooked, creamy, but not mushy or soupy which can happen if you cook too long or add too much liquid. Know also that you will be adding the cheese in at the end which will thicken the rice even more.
I cook any veggies that I’m adding separately and add them last. You can also choose to season the dish, and typically I just add pepper since the cheese is salty as is the chicken stock. This is the kind of dish where, if you can afford it, it pays to use the best of each ingredient – onion, stock, cheese, wine – they all shine in the finished dish. The sharpness of the onion, the richness of the stock, the saltiness of the cheese, and the tang of the wine are all present in this creamy, soul-satisfying treat.
This tastes best if eaten right away, although I’ve had leftovers before and enjoyed them. I had the best photo of the finished dish with steam coming off it and everything, but I accidentally deleted it when I meant to email it off Mr. Foodie’s phone (his phone has the best camera in the house). In any case, the header pic looks very much like my version of risotto with zucchini. To “lighten” this recipe, you can choose to use veggie stock and omit the cheese, but it will lack some flavor and thickening without the cheese.
Zucchini Risotto (adapted from Ina Garten’s risotto recipe)
Serves 4 as a main
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (or butter)
1 Diced Onion
1 Cup Aborio Rice
1 Cup White Wine (Chardonnay works well)
4 Cups of Chicken Stock (or Veggie Stock)
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese (or to taste)
Saute the onion in the oil until softened. Add rice and cook for a minute or two over medium-low heat. Add white wine and cook until rice has absorbed liquid. Ladle heated chicken stock in one ladle at a time, waiting for rice to absorb liquid before adding more. Stir rice often to prevent burning and sticking and to ensure even cooking. Add stock until rice is fully cooked, creamy, but not mushy or soupy. Take off the heat and add cheese and top with any cooked veggies. You can also season to taste.
For Zucchini: cut off ends, slice down the middle, then cut into thin half-moons. Add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat. Throw zucchini into pan with a little salt and pepper, cook undisturbed for a couple minutes, then turn – they should have tiny gold blisters on each side (this is my preference compared to steaming them, but you can do either method).
What is your favorite risotto topper?