risotto – make it perfect every time

Risotto, like so many Italian dishes, is simple culinary perfection based on using a few high quality ingredients and following intuitive age-old technique.

I’ve been making risotto for 40 years. I’ve tried all manner of instructions and ingredient combination. This recipe is the culmination of four decades of experiment.

I use a heavy bottomed, shallow pot with good handles and a wooden spoon. Make sure to have high-quality short-grain arborio rice, extra-virgin olive oil, homemade stock, and good Parmesan cheese.

Toast the rice quickly before adding any liquid to heat up the grain’s exterior, prevent it from breaking, and seal in the starch. Toast the rice until it’s hot to the touch but the color remains pearly white, not brown.

If you don’t have homemade stock, use the best quality commercial product that you can find. Make sure to add hot stock, not cold, to the rice during the cooking process. Cold broth will ruin the texture of the rice. If you dump in the stock all at once, you’re just boiling rice. Use a half cup ladle at first then reduce to a quarter cup as you get near the end of the stock so that you don’t use too much. By slowly adding stock, you allow the rice to bump up against each other, creating that creamy starch. Wait until the rice absorbs all the stock to add some more.

Recipes often instruct you to stir your risotto constantly. Stirring the rice constantly will  cool your risotto down and make it gluey. But if you don’t stir it enough, the rice will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. The risotto’s creaminess comes from the starch produced when the grains of rice rub against each other. You need to find the perfect balance of agitating the rice and letting the heat do its magic.

Your risotto is done when the tooth still finds a little bit of resistance from the rice. It shouldn’t be crunchy at all.

The last, critical step is called mantecatura. It means creaming in English.The final portion of butter and Parmesan cheese are vigorously stirred into the risotto once the risotto is finished and off the heat. This step binds the ingredients together, giving it an oozy creaminess.The texture should be supple and fluid, with a creamy, slightly soupy consistency, but with body.

I prefer to keep my risottos simple so I can taste the creaminess of the rice. Delicate vegetables like baby spinach, zucchini, grape tomatoes, asparagus and peas work beautifully if they are blanched and added at the very end of the cooking process.

RISOTTO

  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1½ cup arborio rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup dry white vermouth – dry Martini or Noilly Prat
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • ½ cup grated Reggiano – Parmigiano

THE STEPS:

  1. Heat the stock over medium high heat until it comes to a boil then reduce heat to low to keep the stock at a strong simmer.
  2. Using a wide bottomed skillet, place over medium heat and add extra virgin olive oil and butter.
  3. When the butter has melted and is frothing in the olive oil, add finely chopped onion and garlic and cook very slowly for about 5 minutes without colouring them.
  4. When the vegetables have softened and are opaque, add the arborio rice and increase the heat slightly to just above medium.
  5. The rice will begin to lightly sizzle, so keep stirring it. Allow the rice to toast for 3 minutes, stirring constantly but gently.
  6. Add the vermouth and keep stirring. The alcohol will evaporate and leave the rice with a beautiful flavour.
  7. Once the vermouth has absorbed into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock. Reduce the heat to a simmer so the rice can absorb the stock at an even pace. Keep adding ladles of stock, stirring and allowing each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 – 20 minutes.
  8. Test the rice to make sure it’s cooked. If not, add a bit more stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite.
  9. Remove from the heat and using the same wooden spoon that you prepared the risotto with, vigorously beat in the 2 tablespoons of cold butter then the grated Parmesan.
  10. Serve immediately.

THE LOVE: I’m not joking about serving immediately. The risotto will continue to cook on the plate so giddy-up!

Stay safe. Stay home and cook.

xo