Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Creamy Goodness

Cooking dinner kinda sucks.

As much as I love throwing on my apron and doing time at the cutting board with my knives and other accoutrements, I really loathe going through the paces to cook a meal for myself. Honestly, part of the joy of cooking is the pleasure of preparing food for someone else.

All this means we eat a lot of frozen food near Oakley Square.

Lately I decided to trim some corners around this joint, and part of that paring down means, gasp, actually cooking.

Like, with a stove and pots and pans and stuff.

The menu has featured risotto two night in a row - a perfect, easy dish for a cold night in.

The hardest thing about risotto is the time commitment. The dish will chain you to your stove and requires a sturdy wrist, but other than that, it's pretty damn easy. The other wonderful thing about risotto is that you can put just about anything but the kitchen sink in it. You can whip up savory or sweet or whatever your taste buds long for.

Here are the basic ingredient needs:

1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/4 cup risotto
3 cups broth - chicken, vegetable or beef (depending on your complimentary ingredients)
salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle the olive oil in a pan. Let it heat up and swirl around in the pan until its completely covered. The olive oil has a hotter smoke point, and allowing it to heat up first will protect the butter from burning. Place the butter in the pan and let it melt.

Once the butter has melted, I like to put the risotto in the pan and let the grains heat up for a few minutes before I pour in the broth. This step gives the risotto a nice, toasted flavor that really enhances the dish.

I would toast the risotto for three minutes or so, then pour one of the three cups of broth in the pan.

This is where you will begin your love affair with stirring.

Stir the risotto. Stir, and stir and stir that stuff until it appears all of the grains have absorbed the broth. This step is over when it looks like there's very little free standing liquid in the pan.

Now you get to add cup number two.

Again with the stirring. Stir the risotto until it's absorbed this second cup of goodness.

And here comes the hat trick. Cup number three, and yes, you guessed it - more stirring.

I haven't timed this whole process, but by my estimation at least half an hour will pass (maybe 40 minutes) before you're done with the broth and stirring.

After all the stirring, the risotto is ready for your enjoyment.

This recipe offers you the basics of preparing risotto - you are more than welcome to add your own flavors to spice things up. Two nights ago I did a carmelized onion and crimini mushroom risotto. I chose to carmelize the onions before adding the risotto to the pan for the toasting stage. I also added the mushrooms at the point when I poured the third cup of broth in the pan - I didn't want the mushrooms to get too tough.

Likewise with last night's dinner. I cooked the onions first until they were clear, then added the risotto for toasting, along with a minced clove of garlic. I added a can of minced clams (and all of the clam juice) when I poured in the third cup of broth.

I'd like to try a sweet risotto soon - I'm thinking brown sugar, bourbon and currants.

This is a fail-safe dish - as long as you can hack the stirring.


liz said...

yum! i'm making risotto on sunday and have never made it before so i am glad to hear yours went well.

Laura said...

Yum! David and I have been infatuated with risotto ever since we started watching Hells' Kitchen. (http://cincinnatinomerati.blogspot.com/2009/02/hk-cincinnati.html) Maybe you've encountered the same problem we have?--every recipe varies in time, and broth quantity to add. We spent an entire evening on youtube watching people make risotto!

VisuaLingual said...

That's one of my favorite weeknight dishes, and I'd say it's a bit simpler than you make it seem. You only need to stir, say, once every five minutes, and then add a half-cup of stock from the four simmering cups. If I think I'll need more than four, I just water down the stock in the pot by a half-cup at a time. It is labor-intensive, but in a mindless way -- there's nothing tricky about it and, like you said, you can add pretty much anything to the arborio rice as it's cooking.