Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Technique Tuesday: All About Risotto

I am an enormous fan of risotto! Pictured below (underneath my favorite balsamic grilled chicken) is my classic risotto recipe. I've been making this dish since I was a teenager, and it's one of my absolute favorites for a cozy supper with my husband or for entertaining guests. It can be dressed up in so many different ways and pairs well with a variety of different proteins. If you are unfamiliar with risotto, it is a decadent, creamy rice dish native to Northern Italy. Traditionally flavored with wine, saffron and stock, this dish possesses incredible depth of flavor that is sure to impress anyone with whom you share it. Just follow the simple technique tips below and be on the lookout Thursday for my risotto recipe. Once you add this dish to your cooking repetoire, you will be making it all the time!

1. Start with the right kind of rice
Arborio rice is traditionally used to make risotto and is a short grained Italian rice that you can find in nearly every grocery store these days. It absorbs the liquid beautifully, and its starch creates a thick, creamy consistency.

2. Use a good quality stock
I prefer to use stock over broth in risotto. It gives it a different depth of flavor and a beautiful richness that you just won't get if you use broth (search broth versus stock in the sidebar for more information).

3. Heat your stock
Your liquid should be warm so that it doesn't shock the rice when you add it to the pan.

4. Saute your rice
Make sure that you take the extra step of sauteing your rice prior to adding any liquid. This brings out the nuttiness of the Arborio rice and melds the flavors of the garlic, onion and any other base ingredients together.

5. Slow and steady
To develop the starches in the rice, you need to be patient. Add small amounts of warmed stock (I typically add my wine at room temperature) and stir frequently until absorbed. Risotto is a labor of love and is well worth the time and effort.

6. Don't forget the saffron
Saffron is one of those magical spices that, once you use it, you will always keep some in your pantry. Traditionally used in Spanish cooking (most notably in paella), saffron has a nutty and salty quality that really elevates the flavor of risotto. Typically saffron can be pretty pricey, so try finding it in a local ethnic grocery store (I've found it in a Mexican market for next to nothing!).

7. Use a good quality cheese
I typically add parmeggiano reggiano or romano (never the stuff in a canister!) at the end of the cooking process. You don't have to spend a fortune on your cheese, but it is so worth it to buy some good quality grated cheese (try Trader Joe's, it's reasonably priced and delicious).

8. Don't let it sit
Serve your risotto immediately. If you let it sit, it tends to seize up and become congealed.

9. Experiment with different flavors and bases
Try seafood stock paired with shrimp and scallops or beef stock paired with a cabernet. The possibilities are endless~ risotto is one of those great dishes that is very versatile and can be used to showcase a variety of flavors.

10. Save your leftovers
One of my favorite appetizers, called arancini, is made from leftover risotto that is molded around mozzarella cheese, then lightly breaded and fried. I serve it with homemade marinara, and it is a huge hit! Check back for this recipe~ I plan to post it sometime shortly after Christmas.

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