Have you ever been stuck trying to figure out what kind of side dish to make? Tired of potatoes? You should try making risotto. This isn't a difficult dish to make. It takes care and time, but the results are well worth it. For those of you who were voting for the Valentine Dinner Cook-along, this was one of the items mentioned for menu #1.
Risotto is made using arborio rice, not regular long grain/white rice. Arborio is a short grain that has a lot of starch, giving it a very creamy texture when it's cooked. You can find it down the rice aisle of your grocery store, or if you have those bins where you can measure your own grains/goodies (think trail mix)... I know I can find it there too.
This dish takes about 30 minutes to make so give yourself enough time to prepare it, otherwise you'll have hard, uncooked rice. NOT what we're going for.
Begin by mincing 1-2 shallots. They give a much milder flavor than onion.
Chop up some flat leaf italian parsley.
Put 5-6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock) in a saucepan. Heat over medium and then turn to simmer. We want the liquid to stay warm.
I used one of the chicken stock boxes that you can find in the grocery store. It was the perfect amount.
Heat 4 Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium/medium high heat.
Add the shallots and saute for about a minute. Don't let them burn. If you want to make mushroom risotto, add your mushrooms at this time. You could even add a little minced garlic as well.
Just as the shallots are softening, add 1 cup arborio rice. Stir the rice around so that it gets coated with butter. This will heat up the kernel and get it ready to break open when the liquid is added.
After about 2 minutes, add a ladle of chicken stock into the pan. Now you don't want the heat too high. Too high will evaporate the stock too quickly and not cook the rice enough... so be sure at this point to lower your temp to medium heat.
Stir the rice around.
When the liquid reduces down to where the rice is almost dry, it's time to add more. You don't want to add too much stock at a time. It will ruin the desired texture we're going for.
Keep adding one ladle at a time and let reduce down. Your rice will begin to double and triple, and maybe even quadruple in quantity. Make sure you stir often so the rice can cook evenly.
When you get near to adding all the remaining broth, taste it to see how the rice is cooking. When it's done, the grains will be nice and puffy and the texture of your risotto will be creamy. It will almost resemble a rice pudding consistency.
When the rice is fully cooked and isn't hard, add a handful of good quality grated parmesan cheese and the parsley. Taste the rice again. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
There's no reason to be intimidated by this dish. It is simple to make and elegant to serve. Bon Appetit!