Risotto for Spring

Risotto is one of those recipes that oftentimes people reject as being too hard or too much work, like cheesecake or baklava.  There are just a few ingredients that are easy to find, and uses basic equipment, yet the method is intimidating.  Yes, it takes some time and attention, but the results are worth both.

It’s important to gather all of the ingredients FIRST.  For experienced cooks it’s not always necessary, but when timing is important and things move quickly, it’s a good practice.  It’s also a good idea to limit multitasking when the dish is in progress.  Just a minute or two of inattention and you may end up with scorched rice, which isn’t always a bad thing, but not the results desired here.

First saute diced shallot in olive oil and butter.  Shallot tastes like a combination of garlic and onion.

This is arborio rice, a short-grained, starchy variety.  It’s easily found in the regular grocery store, but you don’t need much for this recipe.  Store the remainder in the freezer to keep it from going rancid.

Here are some of the “finishers”:  thawed frozen peas, chopped flat-leaf parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

An additional finisher:  parmesan cheese.Dry white wine.  I use chardonnay.

Combine the butter, olive oil, shallot, and salt/pepper in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Cook until shallot is translucent.  Add the rice all at once and stir so it all gets coated with oil.

Then add the white wine and about a cup of hot chicken broth.  Stir.

Stir again, then stir some more.  The goal is to release the starch granules from the outer surface of the rice.  As the starch absorbs the broth it gets soft; when you stir, it releases into the broth.  The more you stir, the creamier it gets.

As it absorbs more broth, it gets stiffer, and you shouldn’t add more broth until you can see the bottom of the pan when you pull the spoon through.  This is just about there…

There!  Time to add about a cup more broth.  Then stir.  Contrary to popular belief, you DON’T have to stir constantly, just occasionally.  But careful not to leave it too long or it will scorch and won’t get creamy.  Then repeat until all the broth is used.

It’s important to taste to see if the rice is cooked enough.  It shouldn’t be mushy… it should have just a bit of bite in the very center of the rice grain.

Now it’s time to add your finishers:  lemon zest, lemon juice, peas, parsley….

…and parmesan cheese.  Stir thoroughly.  Taste now for seasoning.  I over-salted this recipe, not taking into consideration all of the salt in the broth and parmesan, and the fact that the lemon will add tremendous flavor.  I did add more pepper (because I’m a pepper FREAK).

The finished risotto!  Creamy, savory, popping with peas and fresh flavor!

I served myself a nice portion alongside perfectly grilled pork tenderloin.

The beautiful thing about risotto is that it can take on just about any persona by changing the vegetables and seasonings.  It can also be made sweet, like a warm rice pudding, using apple juice or milk instead of broth.

After almost six months of winter, what a gorgeous way to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Risotto

Serves 6 (1/2 cup servings)

1 teaspoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium purple shallot, diced

1/2 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, kept warm

1/2 cup fresh or thawed frozen green peas (or other vegetable)

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

zest and juice of one lemon

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat butter and olive oil in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add shallot; stir and cook until shallot is translucent.  Add the rice and stir so that all of the rice grains are coated with oil.  Add wine and 1 cup of chicken broth, and stir to combine.  Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often.  When rice has absorbed most of the moisture, add one cup of broth, and stir to combine.  Repeat the process until all of the broth has been used.  Check the rice for doneness; it should remain a bit firm in the center.  Remove from heat and add peas, parsley, lemon zest and juice.  Stir in parmesan cheese.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve immediately.

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One Response to Risotto for Spring

  1. Peggy says:

    Thanks, Becki, I will give this a try. It is a dish they seem to struggle with on shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef. I always wondered what the process was.

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