Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dare to Prepare - Risotto

Do you think Risotto is hard to make?  Have you only ordered it in a restaurant because you’ve heard how “time consuming” it is. Do you read a recipe, or look at it and think, “there is no way I can make this”…  If you’ve never had it, Risotto is a creamy delicious rice dish made usually from Superfino Arborio rice, but it can also be made with Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rices.  Basically it’s a short, fat, oval-shaped rice that has a higher starch content than most rices.  You could try to use a short grain rice, and would get a semi-risotto result, but as always, it’s best to use the right ingredient to get the right results.
So why do people think it’s so mysterious and difficult.  Well, first you have to get the right rice, the best one to use is Superfino (which is just the largest grain size) Arborio rice.  Originally all Arborio rice was cultivated in Italy but now it is also grown in California and Texas.  Anyway, not hard anymore to find Arborio rice in you supermarket,  no need to go to a specialty store, or you can easily buy it on-line.  A number of sites sell it including  Rice problem solved.

Then there is this part of all the recipes that say to bring the stock to a simmer and keep it warm on the stove,  then you add the stock just a bit at a time to get each addition to be absorbed into the rice before adding more.  Well, I learned a trick from my boarders.  Each year we host riders from Italy who, as a part of a professional racing team sponsored by Colavita USA and Sutter Home Winery, ride in the Amgen Tour of California.  They love to cook with me, and for me and my family as a way of saying thank you.  One of the things they love to make is, (want to take a guess?) yes, risotto.  And guess what?  They don’t heat the broth.  They cook the risotto over a higher heat and add the broth, just at room temperature, straight from the box.  When I make it, I do heat the broth, but I’m using homemade chicken stock, and I don’t like to leave that at room temperature.  But the boxed stuff works just fine in a risotto.   Also when I make it, I add half of all of the broth right at the start, and let it simmer away, stirring only occasionally. giving me time to do other stuff.

Then there’s that expensive pinch of saffron in the recipe for Risotto Milanese.  Well, if you look for them, you can find deals on saffron that WON”T break the bank.  And it is only a pinch.  I get mine at Trader Joes, for about $2.99.

Risotto is very versatile and I make many different variations.  Some, such as my Green Thai Seafood Risotto, are a meal by themselves.  So LindySez, come on, break out that wide deep saute pan and let’s make some risotto.

Here’s the basic recipe to get you started:

Risotto Milanese

  • 6 to 8 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken stock (preferably homemade) you may not need all of the broth
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 1 large pinch saffron (put this in a small bowl with about 2 tablespoons of the wine)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Heat the broth in a small saucepan and keep warm.
  2. In a large high sided saute pan or risotto pan, heat the oil over medium heat; add the onions and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rice, mix well to coat; saute until the edges turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, cook, stirring until evaporated. Add 2 cups of the broth (about 4 ladles full); simmer, stirring occasionally, until absorbed. Add the saffron and a pinch of salt, then start adding the liquid 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well and adding more broth only when the last addition has been absorbed. Continue to add liquid until the rice is tender (although a little firm to the tooth); about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove the risotto from the heat, stir in the butter and cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings; add a little more liquid if you like a looser risotto.
  3. Per Serving: 355 Calories; 11g Fat (3g Sat, 6g Mono, 1g Poly); 10g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 8mg Cholesterol; 825mg Sodium.
Risotto with Asparagus

OK…that’s the basic recipe.  Now think about what you could add.  How about some peas?  Add them about the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Or some Asparagus, that’s how Davide Frattini loved it.  Blanch them and add them also about the last 5 minutes of cooking.  During the summer months when corn is fresh and delish, I love to take it off the cob and add it to the risotto.  Sear some scallops or shrimp and put it on the top and voila, dinner.

Here’s one that I love to serve with my Indonesian Pork Tenderloin

Carrot-Ginger Risotto

  • For the stock:
  • 4 cups vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 scallions, chopped, green and white parts kept separate
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • For the Risotto:
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, or grapeseed oil
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup sake, mirin (a sweet rice wine) or white wine
  • 1 tablespoon yogurt cheese (to make yogurt cheese, take non-fat or low-fat plain yogurt and put it into a fine colander with either paper towels or a coffee filter. Set it over a container to collect the moisture and allow it to drain for 6 hours or overnight, but I have done this in as short as an hour, while not “cheese” it’s still lost a lot of liquid. Scoop the “cheese” out of the filter) or use Greek style yogurt or heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Put the broth, sliced ginger, scallion greens and orange juice into a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat; turn the heat to medium low and simmer gently for 15 minutes then turn off the heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve; discarding the solids. Return the broth to the pan and keep warm.
  2. In a 3 – 4 quart wide sided pan or risotto pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the whites of the scallion along with the carrot, grated ginger and orange zest, until the scallion is limp, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir until well coated; saute until it turns translucent around the edges, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sake (or mirin or white wine) and cook and stir until it evaporates.
  4. Using a ladle, add 1 cup of broth (a standard ladle holds about 1/2 cup liquid); cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed. Add another ladle of liquid and repeat, stirring in each addition of liquid before adding the next. Once the rice is creamy and tender, add the yogurt (or cream) stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, adding a little more liquid if you like your risotto looser.
Slow-Braised Short Ribs and this Red Wine and Rosemary Risotto are a perfect pair.

Red Wine and Rosemary Risotto

  • 1 quart low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallot (or finely chopped onion)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (if the stems are tender you can chop them as well, but if woody, remove the leaves and use only them)
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon butter, to finish
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

  1. In a sauce pan combine the stock with 1 cup water; heat until hot – keep warm.
  2. In a deep wide pan or risotto pan, heat the olive oil and butter together until the butter is melted; add the shallot and saute for a few minutes; add the rosemary and rice; saute until the rice is slightly translucent around the edges,, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add the wine; simmer briskly, stirring, until the wine is absorbed. Add 2 cups of the stock; simmer briskly (not a boil, just a very fast simmer), stirring occasionally until the stock has been absorbed. Add a pinch of salt along with about 1/2 cup liquid (1 standard ladle); simmer and stir until the stock has been absorbed. Continue adding liquid I/2 cup at a time, allowing each to absorb into the rice before adding more; until the rice is just tender and creamy looking (you may not have to use all the liquid). Taste the risotto, the rice should be tender but still firm. Add the butter and salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Add a little more broth if you like your risotto looser.
Getting the idea?  Good.  Now here’s one that’s a meal on it’s own.

Red Curry Seafood Risotto

  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (or if frozen thawed)
  • 1/2 pound large sea scallop, cut into quarters, or bay scallops (do not cut if using bay scallops)
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, or grapeseed oil
  • 2 cups reduced sodium or homemade chicken broth
  • 1 cup coconut milk (light coconut milk is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon red curry paste (such as Thai Kitchen) or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons premium fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup sweet white wine (a Gewurztraminer is perfect and also drinks nicely when you serve this)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas (if frozen, do not thaw)
  • 1/2 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1″ pieces and blanched (blanching, if you don’t know, if throwing the veggie or whatever into boiling water and then removing it and running cold water over it to stop it from cooking anymore – it helps retain the veggies natural color) for 2 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

  1. Reserve 4 shrimp for the top. Slice the rest into pieces about 1/4 inch thick. Saute the whole shrimps in 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small fry pan. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken broth, coconut milk, curry paste, brown sugar and fish sauce. Put over low heat and bring just to a simmer, do NOT boil. Keep warm.
  3. In a 2 quart high sided saute pan or risotto pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic, saute 30 seconds. Add the rice and saute until the rice becomes toasty and slightly translucent around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Add 2 cups of the broth and simmer, stirring occasionally until absorbed, continue adding liquid, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until it has been absorbed; until the rice is al dente, about 20 – 25 minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp pieces, scallop, peas and green beans. Stir and cook until seafood is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add a little liquid if necessary to keep the rice creamy. All the liquid may not be used. Place in warm bowls, top with reserved shrimps and sprinkle with cilantro and mint. Serve immediately.
LindySez: See nothing to be afraid of.  Now raise your hand if you’re going to give risotto a try.  Good for you!  Cheers.


runalicious said...

I'm intimidated, but I think I'm going to give it a try. How long does saffron keep? My mom bought me a bottle at least 5 years ago and I have never used it (shocking I know)..still good or do I need to sell a kidney on the black market and buy some more or wait until they build a Trader Joe's in my small town?

Lindy said...

I'm going out on the saffron limb, but if it hasn't been opened and has been kept in a fairly even temp...I'd go for it...if it's been opened or kept where it's too hot..then you might have to go with that whole kidney thing...but I've found some great sights on-line...try Penzeys...

Bottom line, be brave...

runalicious said...

I conquered risottot! I used the basic milanese recipe and added asparagus as suggested. It turned out great and no problems with the saffron. Thanks for the encouragement.

Lindy said...

runalicious, thank you for letting me know your results! I'm so glad that you tried it AND that it turned out well.

Cheers - Lindy