There is nothing quite like a batch of risotto. To our minds, it is the ultimate comfort food — even more than baked, bubbly, gooey Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Really. For those risotto aficionados out there, you know what we mean, don’t you? Risotto is more sophisticated, a bit more subtle, and, perhaps, a bit more grown-up.
But, I also hear you say, risotto’s a lot of work. True, but most things worthwhile are a lot of work, and, if you focus on that final result, the time you spend stirring the risotto will just fly by and you’ll be sitting down to a bit of creamy heaven before you know it.
Now, we’ve made risotto for so long, it’s doubtful that this even started with a recipe. More likely, we read about the technique of making risotto and modified it to our liking. That’s the great thing about scratchin’ you can truly make meals to your taste. Anyway, enough chatter, let’s get stirring!
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
- 3/4-1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- ~3 cups mild vegetable stock
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tbs unsalted butter or 2 Tbs cream for finishing (optional)
Yes, you need arborio rice (a number of other rices that are suitable for risotto, but they are more expensive and more difficult to find). While cooking and stirring, arborio rice releases its starches into the broth, making for a creamy texture. With other rices, you’ll end up with something like a rice pilaf. It might be good, but it will lack the essential creaminess that defines a good risotto. Yes, the wine is pretty much required, too. We tried making risotto without the wine, and it just wasn’t right. It seemed a bit stickier and less flavorful, so we always stick with using the wine. Oh, and buy a wine you like the taste of; we’re partial to Barefoot Pinot Grigio. It’s inexpensive and pretty good (almost all Pinot Grigios are pretty good, so you can get by without breaking the bank).
Rehydrate porcinis. Unless you are lucky enough to get them fresh, you’ll need to rehydrate your porcinis with about a cup of boiling water. We just put the porcinis in a heat-proof bowl, pour boiling water to cover, and let steep until cool, about an hour. Drain, reserving broth, and cut porcinis into 1/4-inch dice.
Heat stock. Pour your stock into a sauce pan, and drain the porcini broth in, too. Then bring stock and porcini broth mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer.
Sauté onions. In a large (~3qt) heavy-bottomed sauce pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter into the olive oil. Then add onions and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add rice. Once the onions are tender, add the arborio rice, turn heat to medium, and stir until all the rice grains are coated with oil, about 1 minute (you don’t want to cook the rice at this stage; it won’t release the starches as well).
Add wine and mushrooms. Pour the wine into the rice mixture, and cook, stirring continuously, until the wine has evaporated. Add the porcinis at this time.
Add stock. Add the hot vegetable stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously until absorbed/evaporated before the next addition. This is the real key to great risotto, the small additions of hot stock with plenty of stirring, before adding more. When you’re finished adding stock, the rice should be the slightest bit chewy in the center and coated in a thick broth.
Add cheese. Turn off the heat and add Parmesan cheese, stirring it in as it melts. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Season. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.
Add finishing butter or cream. Right before serving, add about a tablespoon of cold butter cut into bits and stir it in. Or, to quote Julia Child, “If you are afraid of butter, use cream.” Either butter or cream adds that last little bit of creaminess that will move your risotto to the next level. It’s also nice to put a bit of shredded Parmesan on top of each serving as a garnish.
Risotto is probably our favorite savory dish, so it gets five stars no matter how difficult (which it really isn’t, so try making it at least once). We generally order it in restaurants when it is on the menu, but, sadly, most times it is disappointing. The dish is just not suited to a restaurant, because you need to have someone standing and stirring the risotto for the better part of an hour. Fortunately, it is suited to home scratchin’ where you can stir and chat, or stir and sip wine, because it is pretty much an entire meal by itself.