“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” Virginia Wofl
A while ago making risotto seemed like a big deal until I tried it the very first time, following the general rules of cooking risotto. It turns out to be a simple, subtle and very satisfying dish. My favorite is with mushrooms – usually porcini or chanterelles – and sometimes I go with the seafood.
And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE mushroom picking. Finding porcini is like the best treat or like finding real treasure on a treasure hunt. Here are some shots from this year’s mushroom picking – just look at those beauties… Mmm…
Back to risotto!
So here are the basic rules :
1. Choose the right rice – Arborio or Carnaroli. For the creamy consistency of the dish, the rice must have a high level of starch. NEVER rinse the risotto – the starch will be gone and so will the creaminess.
2. Cook in a heavy pan, with think sides and bottom – one that distributes and contains heat well – and big enough to hold the dish – the rice will expand by ~3 times.
3. Sauteing rice in butter or oil will create a coat on each grain and will let it absorb the moisture from the stock slowly and evenly.
4. If you cook with wine, add it at the sauteing stage, prior to adding the broth. It helps evaporate the alcohol and leave the subtle notes of the wine. I had used a variety of dries in the making of risotto – no need to go fancy, simple dry wine will work out perfectly.
5. When it comes to broth – store bought is ok, but not as good as home made. If none is available and no time to prepare it, in some cases I even use plain boiled water with some herbs and spices. Use the broth hot – this way you will maintain more even temperature on the rice and it will cook continuously releasing the starch for the creaminess.
6. The broth should be added in batches – one cup at a time, adding more when it is absorbed. It is slow, but patience will result in the creaminess and the right consistency. Make sure it is simmering over moderate heat – not too hot.
7. Golden rule – keep stirring all the time :). Even and consistent cooking is the key.
8. It is done, when the rice is creamy, but still firm in the center – al dente.
Ingredients for my risotto with porcini:
* Arborio rice
* Red onion
* Parmigiano for sprinkling
* White dry wine
* Salt’n’pepper, oregano, thyme
Cook the chopped garlic and red onion in butter until soft and golden and then add the porcini, cooking until golden. Add some salt, pepper and herbs.
Having the broth ready, add the rice to the pan, pour over the wine and stir for a few minutes – until the grains are a translucent and the alcohol evaporates. Once ready for the broth, start adding it one cup at a time and patiently stirring.
Go by your own taste for the identification of al dente risotto. Don’t let it dry out – make sure to have enough liquid for the creamy texture.
When the al dente gets there, sprinkle with cheese, stir and serve with chopped chives on top.
P.S. If you wish to prepare the risotto with seafood, such as fresh shrimp – add the shrimp at the end and cook until the shrimp is done.