Risotto is one of the meals Manfriend requests on a regular basis. I usually have no objections, but when this summer revealed itself to be an unwavering sweltering soul-crushing eternal heat wave, creamy warm risotto wasn’t exactly what I wanted to eat. Or stand over, stirring diligently.
At the first whisper of cooler weather…”can we have risotto?” I had some mushrooms that needed a home so in to the pot they went and dinner was born. Until…
Until I decided not to get my handy step stool ( judge me. do it) to get something from a high shelf, I just reeeeeached up as high as I could. I teetered on my tip toes and leaned a bit to the side and CRASH. My acrobatics knocked the handle of the pot containing my nicely sauteing mushrooms and the whole lot tumbled to the floor. Your honor, Exhibit A:
This meal quickly would have headed into a monday meltdown had i not saved some of the mushrooms, intending to use them in omelets. Manfriend assured me, despite my insistence, that I was not actually an idiot and complete failure, and back to the cutting board i went.
So, how do you actually make this stuff? For a basic risotto, you only need a few items: onions of some kind (shallots are best), arborio rice, warm liquid (chicken or veggie stock), and, well, that’s it! From there, you can make it your own. The process is also very simple, it just requires a little bit of time (about 30 minutes, unless you’re cooking for 12) and some upper arm endurance. We’re going to walk through the whole thing together nice and easy. I’ll list the quantities I used, but you can adjust them to your taste.
First, heat 3-4 cups of your liquid over low heat so it’s just barely simmering. Barely. Melt some butter or oil in another pot over medium heat. Add 1/2 c. onions and cook until starting to soften (don’t let them get brown. If they start to brown, turn your heat down). Once the onions are on their way, add some flavor! I added healthy dashes of rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper, and my mushrooms (for round 2 there was only a scant cup) here so they could cook and release all their flavors into the rice as it all cooked together.
Now, add your rice. No liquid. (1 cup will serve about 4 people). Let the rice toast with the onions, etc until it juuuuust starts to turn the slightest shade of tan. Toasting the rice before you cook it in liquid seals in the starch and helps make your final product nice and creamy.
NOW you add your liquid–sloooowly. I use a 1-cup measure, dipping it into my simmering broth, which pulls up about 3/4 c. at a time. What you’re going to do here, is add one ladle of broth and stir stir stir the rice until the liquid is completely absorbed. This will happen very quickly at first then more slowly as it gets more and more cooked. If you want to add wine (which is lovely in this), that should be the first liquid you introduce into your rice to maximize flavor and give it time for the booze to cook out. Once the liquid is absorbed, add another ladle. Stir until absorbed. Wash, rinse, repeat. A standard ratio is 3 cups of liquid to 1 cup of rice. l usually use up ending a little more, so I start out with plenty of liquid at the outset so I’m not panicked at the end trying to warm up last-minute water. (Adding cold water halts the cooking process. bad. very bad).
A note on stirring: purists say you need to stir this constantly as it cooks. Not fast and furious–but constantly. I’ve made it like that, and I’ve also made it where you’re doing more than one thing at once and maybe only stir it every couple minutes. Both turned out great. You definitely can’t walk away from it for 10 minutes, but letting it do its thing, giving it a nice stir every so often is just. fine.
When is it done? The only way to know is to TASTE IT! It’s going to start looking all creamy, but I bet in that first bite you’ll find the center of the rice is still a little hard. Keep tasting every few minutes, and it’s done when you like the texture. Maybe you want it al dente, maybe you want it a little more cooked and super creamy. Whatever blows your skirt up.
And now, the best step: serve it up! As do most dishes in the DTMS household, we top ours with some grated parmesan. You could add chopped nuts, fresh herbs, anything you desire.
Ta-da! Total comfort food. The mushrooms (well, the ones that survived) added a deep, earthy layer of flavor. Perfect for warming you up from the chilly fall winds.
And look Ma, no recipe! If you actually got through this whole thing, you saw that strict rules and measurements really have no part in risotto-making. You have to make it your own!