Normally, when we make risotto for our Sunday dinner, it’s Risotto al Funghi or in English, Porcini Risotto. But, it turns out that there are some people out there who don’t like mushrooms. Unbelievable, right? We don’t want to name names, but you know who you are. And we are a bit suspicious.
So, this week we made up a batch of risotto with all those mushroom haters in mind: Risotto al Limone. Even if you don’t know any Italian, if you guessed this is simply risotto with lemon, you’re right.
A savory rice dish with lemon doesn’t seem like as if would be a good combination, but we thought that we might just be surprised. After all, lemon pepper sauce is good, and lemon caper sauce is good, so, why not lemon with rice?
We’ve wanted to try this dish ever since we first read about it in Yvette Van Boven’s book, Homemade. Part of the instructions call for broiling lemon wedges to make them sweet! Who wouldn’t want to try that? While we followed her recipe almost exactly, we strongly suggest leaving out the egg yolk, as it seems to eliminate the creaminess which we love so much in the risotto.
Note that this recipe will not work without arborio rice or another type of rice that is grown for risotto. Ordinary rice will not release the starch to make the risotto creamy. Instead, you’ll have a flavored rice, which isn’t what you want. Trust us, we’ve tried. For the white wine, we suggest using a Pinot Grigio, partly because we like it and partly because it’s generally a reliably good wine regardless of the price (We buy Barefoot brand, which is our favorite). The wine isn’t strictly necessary, but, we’ve found that risotto without wine tastes a bit flat, as if it’s lacking something. Don’t even get us started on the Parmesan cheese, or you’ll hear a rant about the sawdust-filled green shaker cans. For the vegetable broth, we try to save the water we use for steaming fresh vegetables. We put it in a small, seal-able container and freeze it. You never know when you might need broth for soup, or in this case, risotto. It’s a really good habit to get into.
Procedure in detail:
Mise en place. Since this was a new recipe, with a number of ingredients, we made sure to get everything ready beforehand. It made us feel like real chefs. It can do the same for you, but, more importantly, it can save you from disaster. Not a disaster on the scale of a flood, mind you, but more on the scale of avoiding a burnt dinner because you were busy zesting a lemon when you should have been stirring.
Sauté onion. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the finely-diced onions. We like to dice the onion as finely as we can, about 1/8-inch on a side; that way, they seem to melt right into the risotto and no one is surprised by biting into a big onion chunk. Sauteing until tender will take about 8 to 10 minutes; you want them tender, but not browned.
Fry rice. Add the arborio rice to the onion and stir it around until the rice is translucent near the edges but still has a white core, no longer than 2 minutes. If you cook the rice longer, it will become sealed and the starches will not release during the rest of the cooking process; your risotto will not be as creamy as it could be.
Add wine and lemon juice. Pour in the wine and lemon juice and stir while it sizzles. This is good practice for what’s coming next. Keep stirring until the wine and lemon juice are almost completely absorbed.
Add broth. Repeatedly add about 1/3 cup of the hot broth and stir until it is nearly absorbed, then add more broth. Continue adding and stirring, never letting it get soupy, until the rice is tender on the outside and just a bit chewy on the inside, about 20 to 30 minutes. If you run out of hot broth, switch to simmering water.
Season. Get out the salt and pepper, and put in an amount that seems reasonable; we use about 1/3 to 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and about 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Remember, you can add more later, but you won’t be able to remove any.
Add cheese. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, and, when melted, remove from heat.
Finish. Put small bits of butter on top of the risotto, and drop the egg yolk, if using, on top. Immediately stir it in so the yolk doesn’t cook and congeal. Then, cover the risotto while you broil the lemons.
Broil lemon wedges. For broiling something like this, we find that making an impromptu pan from aluminum foil works great. It’ll stand up to the broiler, and you just crumple and toss after you’re done. Broil those lemon wedges about 5 minutes, or until black specks start to form. As with all broiling action, check frequently; food under the broiler can go from not ready to burnt in a really short time.
Plate. Scoop risotto onto plates, garnish with a bit more grated Parmesan cheese and the lemon zest, then serve with the broiled lemon wedges.
This was a nice change of pace from our usual porcini risotto. We can’t say we like it as much, but, as with almost all well-cooked risotto, it’s very good. We will say that the broiled lemon wedges really didn’t get sweet. They stayed lemony, which is okay, but disappointing after reading that they’ll get sweet. If anything, we would probably cut back a bit more on the lemon, and we’d definitely forgo on the egg yolk. That did nothing for the richness, and only seemed to make the risotto less creamy. But, never fear; we did eat every bite for dinner on Sunday. It’s risotto, after all. Four stars.