Thursday, October 15, 2009

Risotto: Have No Fear

Let me guess. You’re scared to make risotto.

Come on. Get over it.

It’s really not that complicated, and yet this tiny grain can invoke major worry in so many.

Not to worry. I am here to help.

I met a dozen South Jersey peeps perplexed by risotto’s ways about a year ago at a risotto class at Sur la Table.

You must know that the Sur la Table store in Marlton offers awesome classes, and when you take one you get an amazing coupon – 15 percent off anything your heart desires.

Hell yeah.

For info on Sur la Table classes, click here .

I was totally, incredibly excited to take the class. Granted, I’ve made risotto like a million times prior to the class, but seafood risotto was on the program, and I wanted to learn to make it like a rock star for Christmas Eve for my fam’s Feast of the Seven Fishes.

My fellow classmates seemed to be perplexed by risotto. In fact, most had tried and claimed to have failing results when cooking it. The teacher went around the room and asked about our risotto experience.

So, here’s the deal: Risotto is made by heating up many cups of broth in one pot, while cooking the rice in another pan. You cook the rice by sautéing some aromatics – garlic, onion, shallots, leeks (to name just a few) in olive oil or butter. Then, you add the rice and mix it around for a minute or two. Then, you add some wine. Let the wine reduce. Then, you start adding a ladle of the simmering broth into the pan with the rice. You stir. And you stir a little more. When the broth has pretty much been absorbed, you add more broth. You repeat this little process for about 20 minutes. Season it up with salt and pepper and some cheese and call it a day.

The slow cooking and stirring process helps the rice release its starchiness and creates a creamy, dreamy dish. It’s so good.

I guess this could trip out beginner cooks, but here are my tips:

1. Make sure your pan is over medium heat. The broth should simmer as you add it.

2. Just add a soup ladle-full at a time.

3. Taste as you cook. If the rice not cooked through, keep adding the broth and stirring.

4. Have patience and fun.

There’s a first time for everything. Of course, the more you make risotto, the better you’ll get.

Below is my recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto. Holy mackerel, it’s so amazing. It really has the flavors of fall. Butternut squash is the star of the show. I wish I had pics to show you how to take the skin off a butternut squash. The next time I cook it, I will make sure Mark is around to shoot that.

Butternut squash risotto can be served as a main dish. But, I made it as a side. With it, I served an amazing veal dish by Lidia as well as an arugula salad.

Butternut Squash Risotto

How to roast the butternut squash:

1 butternut squash, peeled and seeded. Cut squash into ½ inch cubes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Toss butternut squash with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place squash on the baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 25 to 28 minutes.

Note: This step can be done ahead of time.

How to make the risotto:

1 ½ cups risotto (I use arborio)
4 slices of pancetta, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. butter, plus 1 Tbsp. butter
¾ cup white wine
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Roasted butternut squash

In a saucepan, heat chicken broth to a simmer. Keep covered.

Over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a wide risotto pan or sauce pan. Add pancetta and shallots. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir so that the grains are coated with the butter, shallot and pancetta yumminess.

Add wine. Once the wine has reduced (this should take a couple of minutes), slowly add a ladle of hot chicken broth. Slowly stir until almost all of the stock is absorbed. Continue to add the broth, one ladle at a time and stir, for about 15 to 20 minutes. If rice is not cooked through after 15 minutes, keep adding broth.

Once the rice is cooked through, season with salt and pepper. Add 1 Tbsp. butter and stir. Add butternut squash and stir. Add parmesan and stir.

Serve immediately. You may want extra parmesan when you serve.

1 comment:

  1. A personal favourite! I too can't believe people are intimidated by risotto. It's actually pretty easy once you do it for the first time. The key is really to keep tasting it to make sure the risotto is a consistency you like before removing it from the heat.