Lemon risotto. Risotto milanese. Shrimp and garlic risotto. Wild mushroom and red wine risotto. These are just a few of my favorite risottos. I’ve written before that it’s one of my favorite comfort foods. I make it often, so here are my tips and musings on making the perfect risotto.
+You must use arborio rice. No substitutions or it’s not the real deal.
+The broth that you add ladle by ladle needs to be hot. And with a light touch, stir until incorporated, then add another. If you run out of broth or liquid, just add warm water.
+Be gentle. Stirring is required, but don’t over do it! This leads to mushy risotto and nobody wants that.
+Risotto is not a big crowd dish. It requires active cooking and you want to serve it as soon as it is done. Small dinner party, yes. Big bash buffet, no.
+Most importantly, don’t be intimidated. The more you make it the more you will get a hang of it, and know when the rice is that ideal texture.
And regarding the lemon risotto I mentioned, it is Nigella Lawson’s Lemon Risotto from her cookbook Nigella Bites. It’s a keeper, because it’s easy and yields a risotto that is rich, creamy and tangy.
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 4 Tblsp unsalted butter
- 2 Tblsp olive oil
- ¼ cup shallots, chopped
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped
- 1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 cups arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 6 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded & chopped (or one 14.5 oz. can chopped tomatoes, drained)
- ¾ cup Parmesan, plus a little for garnish
- fennel fronds for garnish
- salt to taste
- Bring the chicken stock to a boil and then keep it just at a simmer.
- In a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the olive oil. Add the shallots, thyme, oregano, sliced fennel and fennel seeds. Saute for 5 minutes or until shallots and fennel are softened.
- Add the rice and saute for 2 minutes or until the grains become translucent. Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed. Add the tomatoes at this point.
- One ladleful at a time, add the hot chicken stock to the rice. Be sure to stir the entire time. This will prevent sticking and encourage the creamy texture desired in a risotto.
- Continue adding the stock and stirring until the rice becomes plump and creamy, but still firm. This should take about 20-25 minutes. If you run out of stock, but need more liquid, you may add hot water to the risotto.
- At the end of cooking, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the Parmesan. Stir until melted and fully incorporated. Season with salt. Serve at once, garnished with fennel fronds and additional Parmesan.
All this talk of risotto reminds me that Houston’s 8th Annual International Risotto Festival takes place Sunday, October 17, 2-6 pm at the Houston Design Center. For information and details, visit www.risottofestival.com. Enjoy! -alyce eyster
Photo: Fulton Davenport