If you make risotto as often as we do, you’ll know exactly what to do from the title alone. You’ll know the basic ingredients, and all the steps to make a Lemon Dill Risotto. Even so, we suggest that you continue reading, because we have a small culinary trick that you might not know about. We don’t normally use this particular trick, because we almost always have some sort of broth on hand, or at least the vegetables to make some quickly. This time, when we decided on risotto, we’d just had some soup, using all our vegetable stock. What did we do?
Well, we made stock, just not from vegetables. As you’ve read in many posts, we use Parmesan cheese that you need to grate fresh. Well, to be honest, we often use Grana Padano, which is very similar, but about half the price. And, on every piece we grate, there’s a rind, simply because most (all?) cheeses have a rind, and we don’t grate that rind. It’s too tough. Instead, we place it in a bag in the freezer and use it to flavor soups. Over time, we end up with a small bag of Parmesan rinds. And, it turns out you can make a traditional broth simply by simmering a handful of Parmesan rinds in water, with a few other items. We’ll show you below.
You don’t have to make the cheese broth for this, but keep it in mind, not only for risotto, but as traditionally used for a light soup with a few filled pasta. The kombu and shiitake are there to add more umami flavor or savoriness. If you don’t have them, it’ll be fine. Use fresh lemons; the flavor is better than the stuff in a bottle. And, use real Parmesan or Grana Padano, the kind you have to grate yourself. You’ll taste the difference, and you’ll get a few rinds to save for later.
Procedure in detail:
Make broth. If you’re making the broth, place the water, cheese rinds, bay leaf, shiitake, and kombu in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low simmer and allow to cook, stirring from time to time, for 20 30 minutes. The cheese rinds will melt a bit, and some cheese bits will stick to the spoon and pan, but that’s the price you pay. Once simmered, remove all the solids and discard. Place the broth over low heat to keep warm. If you’re just using vegetable broth, place it in a saucepan and heat to a simmer. Lower heat to keep warm.
Zest and juice. We use a microplane to zest citrus, as it takes off just the zest, leaving the bitter pith behind. The zest has a lot of flavor, so, if you can zest the lemon, make sure to do so. Once zested, juice the lemon and set aside both zest and juice.
Cook onions and garlic. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. When melted and foamy, add the onion and garlic — we like to sprinkle them with a bit of salt and pepper right at the beginning — and cook, stirring very often, until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes. Try not to let them brown; instead, try to get that delicious soft onion-garlic mixture.
Add rice and coat. Add the arborio rice and stir to coat. Some people suggest toasting the rice at this stage, basically cooking it in the butter until it smells toasty. We don’t suggest that, as we find that cooking the rice more than a minute, or two at the most, will “seal” the rice, making it harder to release the starch during later cooking stages. Just stir the rice until it’s coated and glossy.
Add wine. Pour in the wine and start stirring. This is practice for what’s coming. Keep stirring until all the wine has evaporated and is absorbed, but the rice hasn’t started to stick to the pan, about 5 minutes.
Add stock and stir. Add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the hot stock — a ladle comes in handy here to scoop the stock into the rice. Now stir. Just a nice, even stirring, nothing ferocious. Keep stirring, and, just as with the wine, continue until all the stock is absorbed or evaporated.
Repeat. Keep adding stock and stirring in just the same way. You’ll notice that, each time, the broth is creamier than the last. After about 3 additions, perhaps 15 minutes, test the rice for doneness. Bite into a grain to check its crunchiness. You want the center just slightly crunchy. Not chewy, but slightly crunchy, as if there’s a nugget of raw rice in the very center. This is the cue that your rice will be done perfectly in about 5-7 minutes.
Add peas. Stir in the lemon zest, dill, peas, and more stock. Continue stirring and testing the rice as you work. You want the peas to cook along with the rice, and you want the center of the rice slightly chewy. When your rice is ready, remove it from the heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Stir in cheese and juice. Add the Grana Padano and lemon juice and stir it in. Cover the risotto and let it stand for about 5 minutes so the cheese can melt. Then, give everything a bit of a stir.
Season. Taste, and add salt and pepper, as needed. If you think it needs a bit more cheese, add that now, too.
Add cream. If your risotto isn’t creamy enough, add a couple of tablespoons of stock (or cream, or a tablespoon of butter), and stir it in.
Perfect. Not too lemony, not too much dill, just slightly tart, and nice and creamy. The dill pairs very well with the peas, and this is one of our best risottos yet. We’re sure we’ll repeat it. We also liked the pairing of lemon and dill so much that we’ll be making a lemon dill pasta in the future. Watch for it. Five stars.