So, after much wondering and a little recipe reading, I set out to try my hand at making risotto. First, I read recipes. I often do this as a way to try to familiarize myself with a process before actually attempting to create a dish. It helps me understand what will be going on and alleviate any concerns that a dish might be too difficult. (Sometimes, it helps me see that a dish will definitely be too difficult...I usually stop reading recipes at that point.)
But, after looking at a couple of risotto recipes, I found that the process appeared simple. There are a couple of rules that you are advised of (that is, if you have a decent recipe). First, you must stir continuously. Second, you must stir at the correct speed: not too fast, and not too slow. If you stir to quickly, the rice will become slightly gluey; stir it too slowly and it will be watery. The last thing you should know is that you will be stirring and cooking, cooking and stirring, for at least 15-20 minutes continuously. (Ahhhh...must be why it costs so much! Don't get discouraged, though, this is not like whipping egg whites to stiff peaks by hand.)
The result was a lovely, rich flavor. It was quite filling, and I think that I enjoyed it more the next day when I reheated it. The ingredients are simple, direct, and best of all, I get the impression that you can make many variations without having to be told what to do.
Here are the Oh-so-fancy ingredients that I used:
Stirring the rice too vigorously will make your risotto slightly gluey; stirring too little will make it watery. Rice should be only thinly veiled in liquid during the stirring process.
6 to 8 cups homemade chicken stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2)
1 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 to 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for grating or shaving
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat stock in saucepan over medium heat; keep at a low simmer. Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots to oil, and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add rice, and cook stirring, until rice begins to make a clicking sound like glass beads, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add wine to rice mixture. Cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed by rice.
3. Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup hot stock to rice. Using a wooden spoon, stir rice constantly, at a moderate speed. When rice mixture is just thick enough to leave a clear wake behind the spoon, add another 3/4 cup stock.
4. Continue adding stock 3/4 cup at a time and stirring constantly until rice is mostly translucent but still opaque in the center. Rice should be al dente but not crunchy. As rice nears doneness, watch carefully and add smaller amounts of liquid to make sure it does not overcook. The final mixture should be thick enough that grains of rice are suspended in liquid the consistency of heavy cream. It will thicken slightly when removed from heat.
5. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, Parmesan cheese, and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture among four shallow bowls, mounding risotto in the center, and grate or shave additional Parmesan over risotto. Serve immediately.