Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Weekday Basic Risotto

Having some free time tonight for the first time in a while, I decided to make a batch of tomato sauce. Once I got everything out, I decided that in fact I had no interest at all in making tomato sauce. It usually takes four or five hours when I make it, and I didn't want to be up until midnight just to not eat anything before I went to bed.

Instead, I decided to make risotto, which I don't make nearly enough because Mickey is a curmudgeon and doesn't like it. That doesn't offend me - she doesn't like any risotto, not just mine - but it does mean I don't make it all that often. Tonight would be different!

My recipe is a pretty basic one that I got from my father who in turn got it from his mother. The only remotely exotic ingredient it calls for is porcini mushrooms, which I imagine you can find in any store that sells specialty ingredients. I bet Garden of Eden or Fairway around here has some, but I tend to get mine, along with things like parmigiano reggiano and semolina flour, up at Arthur Avenue in the Bronx.

Anyway, on to the risotto recipe!


1 medium onion, diced
7 tablespoons of butter - hell, basically a stick
A few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of arborio fine rice. You can use a little more if you want to make more - this will make 2-4 servings
About 30 oz chicken stock - this is about two of the regular-sized cans if you're buying broth
1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.
A handful of dried porcini mushrooms

Place the mushrooms in about a cup of water and soak for 20-30 minutes prior to starting. I usually do this first and just let them soak while I get everything ready and dice the onion. Some people don't like the large bits of mushroom so they dice it up first, but I don't mind it and I just keep it as is.

In a small pot, start heating the chicken broth. Just set it to a low heat and forget about it for a while.

In a large pot, heat up the olive oil and about 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion and sautée until translucent. This is how 90% of Italian recipes seem to start. You can add a little dry white wine if you like.

When the onion is ready, add the rice and stir it up well so that it's all coated with butter and oil.

Add the mushrooms, including the water it was soaking in. Stir everything up and add a ladle-full of chicken broth.

Now comes the somewhat-tricky-but-not-really part of making risotto. You're going to slowly add broth and stir until the rice soaks it all up. It takes a few minutes for each ladle, and you want to keep the risotto cooking at a low enough heat that it's just barely beginning to boil. Stir, stir, stir, making sure nothing's sticking to the pot. Keep slowly adding broth and stirring until it's absorbed. Most, if not all, of the broth should be gone in about 20 minutes.

Towards the end, start testing the rice to see if it's al dente. You don't want it to be completely done, but just about.

Once it's ready, put in the rest of the butter (about half a stick) and half of the cup of cheese and start stirring to combine it all.

Spoon on to plates or bowls and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.


Anonymous said...

The rissotto looks great. If you want to try a variation which I consider a purer form of the classic Rissotto Milanese, you can substitute a few drops of white truffle oil for the porcini mushrooms. Be careful, this is powerful stuff. Then, just before you start adding the chicken broth, pour in a half cup of white wine. An added flourish is to add a pinch of saffron to create a rich yellow clor. Saffron is very expensive, a few threads go a long way.

The only other thing to consider is to sautee some scallops or jumbo shrimp/prawns, well seasoned and then garinsh the risotto with about four of them. Scallops or shrimp cook very fast so start the sauteeing just a few minutes before yo think the risotto is finished cooking.

Another slight variation is to try Caranoli rice which some people prefer to aborio. I like the Caranoli because it seems to better retain its distinct kernal character.

Anonymous said...

Also if you can find it the Vialone variety is great!!!!!!
I also second the adding of white wine after the onion is cooked and you have added the rice, let it coat with butter, and before you start adding broth!
Also I use a trick called "mantecare" - when you turn off the fire, add the butter and cheese the way you say, stir fast, cover the top with the lid and let it rest for three minutes or so (while everybopdy sits down or so!) and you shall see how CREAMY it gets....
BTW love your blog keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Canned stock in risotto? What an unfortunate choice.

FYI, truffle oil contains no truffles--it's a totally synthetic product that generally lends a really off taste, IMO.

Anonymous said...

You guys might enjoy this...


Anonymous said...

While using home made stock has a certain appeal, I doubt very much that if put next to each other, whether anonymous would be able to tell the difference. Indeed you can make a fantastic risotto using just water.because the balance of flavors truly flows from the fusion of the other ingredients.
Great risotto has so many variations that there is no need to get caught up with psuedo risotto elitism. Visit 100 Italian grnadmothers and you will have 100 variations. Anonymous sounds like an upper West Side liberal non-Italian snob.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I just noticed the comment by anonymous about white truffle oil. I donb't know where he getsw his, but I use the imported Roland brand which is made with White truffle. Again this has to be used sparingly. The first time I tasted it is at the top Northern Italian restaurant in the detroit metropolitan area. When I tasted it I asked the onwner chef what was in it that gave it such a unique flavor and he put me on to the use of white truffle oil.

I am sure you can find this product at Arthur Avenue or probably at Dean and Delucca at twice the price.
You can buy it onlineat Teitel Brothers for $22 for 8 ounces. Dad

Anonymous said...

Here is the article about truffle oil from the NY Times:


Anonymous said...

I don't cook with Alcohol- is there any interesting alternative to the white wine?

Brian said...

It's totally optional - I only use it when I happen to have some around for cooking, and quite often I don't have any :)

Unknown said...

Looks amazing! I totally agree on saffron. It is quite expensive but I can't live without it! Yum :)