Guest Blog – Riveting Risotto

I am sitting here in my sisters’ home, and enjoying the sounds of my sweet niece laughing.  The sound of a child laughing makes me smile, especially a full belly laugh!  This week I will be working in Detroit, Michigan, my home state.  My family was so excited when they found out I would be here for a week.

So I am excited to have Jenni from Pastry Chef Online stop by!  Jenni and I have made Moscato pound cake together, delicious homemade ciabatta bread, and just recently I made her lovely Posset.  Jenni shares beautiful recipes, along with sharing about techniques.  I hope you take the time to say hi to her, she is truly wonderful!

I will leave you with a fun picture that makes me giggle!  Now go enjoy some riveting risotto!

I am so honored that Terra asked me to come over to her place and talk to you guys. Hi, guys! And thank you Terra for the invitation, I am happy to be here, and I hope your time away is a little bit work and a little bit fun!

risotto 004editIt didn’t take me too long to figure out what to tell you guys about. If you know me, and even if you don’t, I’m all about teaching techniques over recipes. In my estimation, a recipe is no more than a list of ingredients paired with a list of techniques for how to prepare them. Learn the techniques, and you can apply them to whatever list of ingredients you have. This is especially true in cooking rather than baking. I mean, the creaming method (you know the one: cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, etc) isn’t exactly universally applicable.

But cooking methods–sauteing, braising, roasting, etc–are applicable to almost any ingredients within reason. For example, if you can sauté onions with some chicken, there is no reason why you can’t do the same with shallots and some pork. The only real difference between braised cabbage and braised pot roast is that in one, you braised cabbage and the other you, um, braised pot roast. See what I mean?

Almost nowhere else is this universality of cooking method more applicable than with grains. Pretty much, regardless of the grain, you use 1 part grain to 2 parts liquid, bring to a boil and then reduce to a mere simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed. This works, with perhaps a wee bit of tweaking, for everything from bulgar to barley and from wheat berries to quinoa. And long-grained rice.

The only fundamental differences between making basic cooked rice and making risotto are a)the type of rice you choose and b)gradually stirring in liquid as opposed to dumping it in all at once. A difference in degree is the amount of liquid used. With risotto, count on about 3 cups liquid to every cup of rice. In Italy, the Rice of Choice for risotto is often a short grained, starchy rice called Carnaroli, although Arborio is often frequently used.

While you can cook long grained rice “risotto-style” by gradually stirring in hot liquid, the resulting end product won’t have that amazing creaminess that risotto is known for. That’s because short grained “risotto-able” rice has a high starch content and can absorb a ton of liquid, both of which result in a creamy-comforting dish.

OK, enough of that. Let’s get on to the Business of actually making risotto. It’s a technique, not a recipe. Here’s how it goes:

  • Saute aromatics in butter.
  • Add rice and cook until translucent.
  • Gradually stir in hot cooking liquid, a bit at a time, until the rice is almost cooked through with just a hint of bite in the center, about 22-23 minutes.
  • Finish with some butter and Parmesan serve immediately.

I am not saying there aren’t “classic risottos” out there, because there are a ton of them. And they are classic for good reason–they are very tasty and the classic ingredient pairings work very well together. But, the fun comes in adding your own personal touches, and adding them at the right times so that everything will be done to perfection at the same time. You can do this a couple of different ways. You could cook all your “add-ins” separately and then stir them all together right before serving, or you could just add each ingredient to the pan in reverse order of how long it takes them to cook, keeping in mind that total cooking time is about 23 minutes. The only ingredient I wouldn’t recommend doing this with is raw meat and seafood, for safety reasons. You want to make sure you’ve cooked meats to the proper temperature before adding them to your risotto.

If you have a bunch of leftovers lying around like I did last night, risotto is a fun way to use them all up and still serve kind of a fancy meal. As a bonus, it’ll only take about half an hour to forty minutes, from start to finish. Hooray!

Riveting Risotto
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Ingredients

5 Tablespoons unsalted butter (it's creamy and yummy, but definitely not diet food. Feel free to reduce the butter by a little or even sub olive oil for some or all of it)
1/2 sweet onion, diced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar or 1/4 cup of white wine
1 cup Carnaroli or Arborio rice (I had Arborio, so that's what I used)
3 1/2 cups chicken stock, hot (I used Pacific Naturals Organic)
pinch of saffron threads (optional but lovely)
1 cup cauliflower florets (bite-sized pieces)
1 cup steamed wax beans (ditto)
1 cup braised kale
meat from two cooked chicken thighs, cut or torn into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 Tablespoons fresh herbs (I used fresh thyme and oregano from the garden. Use what you have and what goes with your own brand of risotto)

Instructions

Heat the chicken stock and saffron (if using) to a simmer and keep hot, not boiling.

Heat a large, wide pan over medium heat until hot (I used a saute pan).

Add 3 Tablespoons of butter.

When the butter melts, add the onion and a healthy pinch of kosher salt and a generous several grinds of black pepper.

Cook and stir the onions until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the rice is translucent at the edges.

Deglaze with the vinegar or wine and cook until almost dry.

Ladle in about 1/2 cup of hot broth and cook, stirring, until almost completely absorbed.

Continue adding broth, about a half cup at a time, stirring quite frequently but not necessarily continuously.

Add the cauliflower after about 12 minutes of cooking to give it plenty of time to reach your desired tenderness.

Taste periodically and add a bit more salt and/or pepper if you think it needs it.

Add the beans, kale and chicken during the last 10 minutes or so of cooking to make sure that they are heated through to a safe serving temperature when the risotto is done.

Once three cups of broth is all stirred in and all the "mix-ins" are hot, test the rice--there should be just a bit of resistance in the middle of the creamy grain.

Check the consistency of your risotto. It should be creamy but not soupy. If it seems a little dry, you can stir in a bit more of the reserved stock.

Stir in the last 2 tablespoons of butter, the Parmesan cheese and the fresh herbs.

Serve immediately.

Notes

Remember, my directions are specific to my set of ingredients. Use what you have, and have fun with this!

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http://www.cafeterrablog.com/2012/06/04/guest-blog-riveting-risotto/

 

Thank you soooooo much Jenni!!!

Have you made risotto before?  What is your favorite way to enjoy risotto?

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  • I want risotto now.  I'm SO hungry!
  • Hi Terra! Glad I was able to help out while you're on your trip. Cool that you get to visit with your family! Hooray!  I guess the Easy Recipe didn't transfer to your place. If you want me to send the ingredient list and techniques that go with the picture, just let me know! :)
  • kitchenriffs
    "In my estimation, a recipe is no more than a list of ingredients paired with a list of techniques for how to prepare them. Learn the techniques, and you can apply them to whatever list of ingredients you have."  Totally true!  And your "recipe" for risotto is a perfect example of this.  Really good post - thanks.
  • Wonderful guest post and even for those of us who cook often, a post like this, these lessons, are important for us to hear once in a while to remind us that we can comfortably get more creative in the kitchen by leaning on these techniques that we don't normally think about! And risotto is the perfect example! I love risotto and love making it and mostly because it is indeed a blank slate: once we understand the basic rules about making a great risotto the skies the limit with all the different flavors and meals it can become. Perfect! And enjoy your time with your family and your adorable niece, Terra!
  • Wonderful guest post and even for those of us who cook often, a post like this, these lessons, are important for us to hear once in a while to remind us that we can comfortably get more creative in the kitchen by leaning on these techniques that we don't normally think about! And risotto is the perfect example! I love risotto and love making it and mostly because it is indeed a blank slate: once we understand the basic rules about making a great risotto the skies the limit with all the different flavors and meals it can become. Perfect! And enjoy your time with your family and your adorable niece, Terra!
  • Wonderful guest post and even for those of us who cook often, a post like this, these lessons, are important for us to hear once in a while to remind us that we can comfortably get more creative in the kitchen by leaning on these techniques that we don't normally think about! And risotto is the perfect example! I love risotto and love making it and mostly because it is indeed a blank slate: once we understand the basic rules about making a great risotto the skies the limit with all the different flavors and meals it can become. Perfect! And enjoy your time with your family and your adorable niece, Terra!
  • Yay, risotto is one of my all-time favorite foods! Wonderful post :)
  • Such a comforting and flavourful risotto. Thanks for sharing.
  • Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table
    I love a good risotto!  My favorite were the wine-laced risottos we ate in Italy.   So decadent and so delicious!
  • Choc Chip Uru
    What a wonderful and deliciously flavoured risotto my friend :) Cheers CCU http://gobakeyourself.wordpress.com/
  • Jenni your risotto sounds delish! I tried once but it took a long time I guess I put too much rice.  I will try with one cup rice and kale next time! Terra I hope you are having a fabulous time with your family. A child's laugh is the best thing :)
  • Another great guest post Terra! Hope you're having an great time in Michigan! 
  • Hi Jenni, your risotto looks wonderful!  Hope you are having a wonderful visit Terra!