I love a good risotto. It can be a an appetizer, a side dish or a main dish. It’s so versatile yet we treat it like a special occasion dish. Yes, risotto takes a little time and you have to babysit it but when you consider the many uses and variations it’s worth the trouble, especially for all the leftovers.
Risotto is a cooking method NOT just the dish we’ve become so addicted to. The risotto method means that your rice/grain is cooked uncovered with small amounts of liquid being added along the way. You can “risotto” a lot of grains besides the traditionally used short grained rice called arborio. I personally have used the risotto method on wheatberry and farro. They take a tad longer but it’s a great way of eating healthier. You should avoid long grain white rice as the texture won’t be creamy and don’t even think about trying this with converted or minute rice, it simply doesn’t work.
To begin, warm 1/3 – ½ cup of white wine to a simmer in a small saucepan. In a separate saucepan, warm to a simmer your liquid (preferably homemade stock or broth). Your ratio of rice/grain to liquid will be higher than usual. If you normally use one cup of rice and two cups of stock have at least three cups of stock warming. If you run low you can always add more to pot. Start by sautéing your choice of finely minced aromatics such as garlic, shallot, onion, mushrooms, celery, bell peppers, etc. in a generous amount of olive oil in a medium to large saucepan. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and add your grain. Saute over medium high heat until white rice is translucent or your alternative grain is lightly golden brown (7-10 minutes). Return your aromatics to the pan, reduce the heat to medium, add the warmed wine and simmer until completely evaporated. Then add a ladle of simmering stock to the mixture, simmer uncovered, stirring almost constantly until most of the liquid is absorbed. Repeat until your risotto is at the desired consistency. It should be slightly al dente but not mushy. It is quite trendy in restaurants to leave your grain very crunchy in the middle. I prefer it a little softer than most restaurants are preparing it these days. It will take approximately 20-25 minutes for short grain white rice and longer for some other grains. Just keep tasting it. The starch from the rice/grain will form a creamy texture. Once your grain is done, determine if you need a bit more stock. If it appears dry, add more. If it’s creamy with a fair amount of liquid leave it alone. Now the fun part: you can simply add salt and pepper to taste and serve or stir in fresh herbs, cheese, additional butter, cream, a cooked protein, pre-cooked vegetables, whatever you want. Remove from heat, cover for about five minutes and serve.
With all risotto’s, the leftovers are the best part. Yes, you can just warm and re-serve. But what I love is to spread the leftover risotto on a sheet pan and chill overnight. Then form little balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball) either with cooked sausage or a little chunk of cheese in the middle and pan or deep fry and serve with a marinara dipping sauce. Another great use is to cut your chilled sheet of risotto into one inch squares, toss in bread crumbs and either pan fry or bake until very crispy and use as croutons on a wilted spinach salad. Or try cutting it into larger squares, rounds, or triangles and sauté until crisp and serve it as a crispy side dish.
The constant stirring can be a pain in the ass. You can’t rush this and you do have to give it a lot of love but while you’re at it make a double batch and play with the leftovers. You’re gonna love it and you’ll impress your foodie friends with your balls.