Thursday, November 17, 2005

Parmesan Risotto

I've never ordered risotto at a restaurant. And, frankly, I've often wondered why it cost so much when I see it on a menu. I thought, it must be difficult to make. It must taste like heaven. It must have expensive ingredients.

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:

Parmesan Risotto
Serves 4

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.


ilva said...

Dawn-you finally made it! See, it's not difficult and it's good comfort food! It looks really lovely!

vlb5757 said...

Risotto, is WONDERFUL. I have even heard you can make Risotto in a Pressure Cooker in 7-10 minutes. Personally, I enjoy the stirring, pouring, stirring, pouring and so on. It's like steeping tea. Some things that take time and effort are certainly worth the wait! Nice job.

Dawn said...

Thank you Ilva. It really helped to read through your recipe and see what it would be like to cook it.

Vickie, thanks! I just am looking forward to trying more variations. I think it is definitely worth the stirring - it's nothing like any other rice you can make.

Kristi said...

This looks yummy, easy to make, and plain. Right up my alley. Thanks for the great directions. I may give this a try.

PS: I finally completed the Kitchen Meme you tagged me for, and once the photos are developed, I'll stick them on my blog.

lisaSD said...

Dawn--Yummy looking! Have you ever seen a recipe for risotto that doesn't contain white wine? It must be one of the historical, and therefore imperative, ingredients? I ask because I don't like the flavor of white wine (I know, I know) and wonder if I can find a recipe without it. Anyway, have you ever heard of baked risotto? I tried one once from Cook's Illustrated and it was well-received. That would alleviate the need for stirring!

Dawn said...

lisasd, no I have not heard of baked risotto (not that I have much experience with risotto at all), but I would give it a try. Here is a recipe from Ilva at Lucullian's for pumpkin risotto and there is no wine:

Cate said...

That looks divine! I haven't attempted it myself yet, but this recipe just might make a strong case for starting...

Dawn said...

sweetnicks, I am glad that I finally gave it a try. And since it only took 1 cup of rice, I have the rest of a box to use, which probably means experimenting on my own or trying new recipes. Either way, it should be yummy!

michelle said...

Oh Dawn, this looks wonderful! I really love making risotto - all that constant, not-too-fast stirring and waiting make it kind of a zen experience. I'm glad you tried it!

Dawn said...

Michelle, I am glad too. It sounds like more work than it really is.