I’m thinking risotto…

For some reason, I’ve seen a flurry of articles, posts and tweets of late about the horrors of cooking risotto.  Standing over the stove and stirring, and stirring, and stirring…such whining.

You can easily find any number of risotto shortcuts by spending a very few minutes at your computer – stir once, microwave, pressure cooker. All have their labor saving benefits, if that’s what you’re looking for in a recipe.

For me, preparing a good risotto is an opportunity to enjoy the process, not bemoan it. It’s a way to unwind, relax and get into it.  It’s what the slow foods movement, for me at least, is all about.

As is the case with most good recipes, there’s a “master recipe” for risotto. Learn it, become comfortable with it and you can take it in virtually any direction, make it anywhere and add anything you choose to it.  With spring approaching, it’s the perfect time to learn this classic Italian recipe.

Risotto Alla Primavera
Serves 4

2C spring vegetables, to include asparagus tips, baby peas, green beans. You can also add broccoli bits, sugar snap peas…think ripe, in season
1/4C light cream
1T chopped fresh parsley – not minced
5C good quality vegetable broth, low sodium if you like
1/2C dry white wine
2T unsalted butter
1T olive oil
1/2C finely minced onion
1 1/2C Aborio rice

Put the veggies in a good sized saucepan and cover with cold water. Place over high heat. When it comes to a boil, cook for 3 minutes. Drain, shock under cold water, set aside.

While cooking veggies, bring the broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan and hold it there for the duration.

Next, heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4 quart saucepan/casserole over moderate heat. Add the onion and saute for about 1-2 minutes, until it begins to soften (this is called “sweating the onion”). Be careful not to brown the onion.

Add the rice. Using a wooden spoon, stir for one minute, making sure all the grains are well coated. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed. Begin to add the simmering broth, 1/2C at a time, stirring frequently. Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next 1/2C. Be sure to save about 1/4C for the very end.

After about 18 minutes, the rice tender but still firm to the tooth, the texture creamy, add the reserved broth and the blanched vegetables, cream, parsley, and a handful of good quality grated Parmesan if you like. Stir vigorously to combine it all. Cover, set aside for 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Notes: It’s essential you use Aborio rice for risotto. This is a short grained stout rice that’s high in starch, which will give you the classic creamy consistency. Of course, all of your preparation should be done in advance before you start cooking. Some prefer to add a nob of butter right at the very end instead of using cream. I think it’s a taste issue.  As is seasoning with salt and pepper…season to taste. You might try creating and adding a puree of vegetables to the dish. Follow the blanching directions, and when the water comes to a boil, cook for 8-10 minutes until the vegetables are very tender. Drain. Place vegetables in a food processor along with 1/4C of the cooking water and process until very smooth. Omit the cream; stir into the risotto at the very end before setting aside for 3 minutes.

Don’t plan on leftovers.s is

Spring veggies pic courtesy of rwapplewannabe.wordpress.com
Aborio rice pic courtesy of vegeyum.wordpress.com

Kent McDonald is a Certified Personal Chef, living and working in Phoenix, AZ. (c) All Rights Reserved, 2009

You can now follow me on Twitter.

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