It’s been awhile since we’ve had risotto. Mostly because we think of it as more of a winter dish, sort of creamy and cheesy and comforting on a cool winter day, so we often don’t make it in the summer. That’s bad for us, because a lot of summer vegetables pair nicely with a bowl of risotto, not to mention some of those fresh herbs (and cheeses), too. With that in mind, we figured we’d make a batch of corn risotto with fresh goat cheese. We hadn’t decided on the herb until the last minute. We knew it’d be either rosemary or sage, but, until we stirred in the cheese, we hadn’t picked one over the other.
Risotto has the reputation for being difficult and time-consuming. And, time-consuming, it is. Difficult? Well, that’s a bit harder to answer. Yes, and no. It’s not difficult, but there are times, no matter what you do, that the rice doesn’t cook right. At least for us, that happens about 10% of the time. We really have no idea why. After all, we’ve made hundreds of batches of risotto, and we think we do it the same way each time (mostly); we use the same rice, and bam, then one time, the rice sort of disintegrates while cooking, but somehow the center part is uncooked, making for a less than stellar meal. Which happens to be the case with today’s version of risotto.
Now, you might be saying, “why on earth are you posting a recipe that doesn’t turn out?” But, the fact is, we know that it will turn out just fine and taste great almost all the time. There are just those few and far between cases that leave us befuddled and wondering what happened.
Risotto will not work with ordinary rice, so you do need use arborio rice (there are a few other rices that are appropriate, but are harder to find). For the white wine, we suggest Pinot Grigio, because that’s what we like. But, you can use other kinds of wine, too (we like risotto made from Champagne). If, for some reason, you can’t use fresh corn kernels, consider making another flavor of risotto. It’s endlessly versatile, too versatile not to use fresh, tasty ingredients. Finally, goat cheese can be, well, goat-y tasting. If that’s what you like, well, that’s nice; but, if not, you’ll need to search for a cheese you do like. Or simply use another kind of cheese.
Procedure in detail:
Sauté onions. Place the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and the garlic — if you wish, you can sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper, totally up to you as the chef — and cook, stirring often, until tender but not browned, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Coat rice. Add the rice and stir to coat with oil. Don’t spend too much time doing this, as we’ve heard that cooking the rice like this will seal the outside coating, making a creamy risotto nearly impossible. Try to cook the rice for a total of 1 minute.
Add corn and wine. Once the rice is coated with oil, add the corn and wine. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Continue simmering, stirring often, until almost all the wine is gone. It should look like the rice is in a thick white gravy, and, when you scrape the bottom of the pan, the liquid should fill in very slowly.
Add broth and simmer. Here’s what gets people about making risotto: you add the simmering broth to the rice a little at a time, then cook it away before adding more. And keep doing that until the rice is done. We generally add about 1/4 cup of hot broth at a time, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less, then we stir it in and simmer, stirring often, until the rice has absorbed almost all that broth. Then we do it again. And again. And again, until the rice tests done.
Test rice. After about 15 to 20 minutes, taste a grain of rice. When done, it should be slightly chewy on the inside, with a tender coating on the outside. It should not be crunchy by any means. If it is, keep adding broth, simmering, and testing.
Finish. Once the rice is done, turn off the heat, add the cheese and sage, give it all a stir to mix, then let stand, covered, for about 5 minutes to make sure the cheese has melted nicely.
Season. Give the risotto a stir, then taste. Add salt and pepper as needed, stir and taste again. Keep doing this until your seasoning is perfect.
Serve. Scoop into shallow bowls or onto plates, top with a bit of grated Parmesan and dust with chervil — for color — and serve immediately.
As we said above, our rice, for reasons unbeknownst to us, didn’t turn out as well as we would have liked, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The flavor was good, with the corn adding sweetness, offsetting that slightly dry tanginess of the goat cheese, and the sage added a nice earthy flavor (it would have been good with rosemary). However, it wasn’t a great risotto, and we think that’s because it was just slightly too sweet (it’s hard to control the sweetness of corn), and wasn’t as creamy as we would have liked. If only we’d had some heavy cream on hand; we would have added several tablespoonfuls right at the end. That might have been enough to move it into five-star territory, but, as is, it’s a four-star dish.