Risotto is not terrifying ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

31 August 2007

Risotto is not terrifying

Risotto was really trendy when I first started making it somewhere in the five to seven years ago range. It does not seem so trendy anymore. Has it slid into the range of normal foods that people just cook, or is it falling out of perception entirely? I mean, I definitely have a bunch of cookbooks with occasional risotto recipes, but it kind of seems like people have gotten sick of cooking something to which you have to pay such close attention. This seems strange, though, since there are lots of foods that require attention. It's not like cream sauce can just sit there and cook itself. So maybe we should go the other direction and posit that people may be scared of making something that has a reputation for high culinary technique. This makes sense until you notice that the technique is basically advanced stirring.

You can stir a pot. Make risotto. What better way to spend the last day of August than by standing over a hot pan for a half hour?

One of the best things about risotto is that you can put practically anything you want in it. In this case I wanted corn and red pepper. It was delicious, and will continue to be so tomorrow for lunch.

Risotto is delicious.

arborio rice
olive oil
yellow onion
dry vermouth or white wine
red pepper
salt, pepper, parsley
parmesan or asiago

If you don't have broth, it's the first step. Grab a handful of vegetable scraps, stick them in a pot of water, and put them on to boil. Simmer this while you're doing everything else. If you already have broth, you need to bring it up to a simmer too. This will ultimately make the risotto cook much, much faster.

Ok. Get out a big pot, set it over medium heat, and pour in some olive oil. Chop up maybe half a yellow onion and add it to the pan. Let the onion soften a bit while you go read a book, or chop up red pepper and decob or defrost corn. Whatever.

When the onion is soft, add a cup of rice to the pan and start stirring. You don't have to stir absolutely constantly, but pay close attention when you stop. Toast the rice for three or four minutes. It may start making popping noises; that just means it's getting hot, and is about ready for broth action.

Add maybe half a glass of vermouth or white wine to the pan. You can also use red wine, but I like white better. Start stirring; stir for maybe five minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the vermouth. At this point your rice should be translucent around the edges, with an opaque white core in the middle.

Add a couple ladlefuls of the hot broth to your rice. You want a pan of liquid nearly completely full of rice; when you stir, it will make big solid waves. Stir fairly constantly until the rice has absorbed the liquid.

Repeat this several times, adding water to your broth pot if necessary. You'll notice the rice's appearance changing as it cooks; eventually, the translucence will go away and you'll be left with a solid creamy-looking grain. Keep tasting as you go to make sure the rice cooks to your preferred texture.

When your rice is almost done, and you're about to add your last batch of broth, add the vegetables. You can use pretty much anything you want. If you want a long-cooking vegetable, like winter squash, make sure to precook. Meat should be precooked also. Everything else can be raw and room-temperature; you're just going to warm it in the pan anyway.

Combinations you can add:
- red pepper and corn, duh
- zucchini or summer squash and tomato
- just good diced tomato, or any individual vegetable
- peas, regular or sugar snap
- tiny green bean bits and lemon zest
- asparagus tips and mushrooms
- winter squash and slivered almonds

When things are cooked to your liking, take the pan off the heat. Add lots of grated cheese, black pepper, and chopped parsley. Taste and see if it needs salt, then add that too.

Put it in a bowl and eat it. You probably want dark green salad and wine and maybe a little bread.

Risotto is possibly the most soporific food on the planet. Be prepared to lie around reading books in bed for the rest of the night.

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