Friday, June 5, 2009

A rice by another name?

Risotto is a rice, yet it comes to the plate looking more like sauce than substance. Yet in every good risotto, the rice is the star, and the sauce is the solar system that revolves around it. And to create this universe, this Milky Way, takes time. But it is so worth it.

You can cook pasta in a similar way, but the payoff isn’t nearly as great.

To make a good risotto, have all your ingredients measured out and at hand before you start. Keep your broth at a simmer and have a good dipper to add it at the right intervals. And be familiar enough with the recipe that you can pay attention to what the rice is doing at any time so you can adjust the heat and broth accordingly. And give yourself plenty of time. The dish will stay warm a long time, but it can’t be rushed.

Recipe: Risotto


3 1/2 cups regular or low-sodium vegetable broth

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 large shallot, finely diced

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon butter (salted OK)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring broth to a simmer.

For the risotto, heat butter and olive oil in a wide, shallow, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add diced shallots and saute 3 minutes, or until tender and translucent. Add the rice and toast for 1 to 2 minutes, or until slightly translucent. Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated.

Cook the risotto at a slow simmer, adding heated broth a half-cup at a time. Stir occasionally, making sure the risotto absorbs the liquid before adding more. Use more or less broth as needed.

Continue cooking in this manner for 18 to 20 minutes. Taste the risotto - it should be creamy and thick. It's best al dente, which means it should be fully cooked, yet still retain some firmness when you chew it.

When the risotto is nearly finished, stir in any other ingredients you'd like to add. Turn off heat, stir in 1 tablespoon of butter, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve immediately.

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