If risotto sounds fancy, it’s probably because it has an Italian name. But it really is nothing more than tasty rice porridge. The key ingredient is starchy short-grain rice called arborio.
The starch in the rice is released when cooked with a good amount of stock. The result is a warm, creamy, flavorful, satisfying dish.
The second ingredient is stock. It is important to use a good quality stock, because it provides most of the flavor in this dish. Some white wine can also be used to impart flavor.
Stock can be homemade, or you can use quality store brands like Swanson. Also, Morgan and York on Packard in Ann Arbor makes chicken stocks that can be found in the freezer section.
The process for making risotto usually calls for adding a small amount of stock and stirring it into the rice until the stock is absorbed. Then more stock is added, and the stir-and-absorb procedure is repeated until the rice is cooked and all the stock is used.
This works fine, but to make the process a little easier, you can try the no-stir oven risotto method described below.
Risotto can be served plain as a simple rice porridge topped with parmesan, or meat, seafood and vegetables can be added to make it a complete meal.
Some classic combinations of risotto are wild mushroom, crab and asparagus, shrimp and peas, onion, leek or shallot, pumpkin or lobster.
Risotto cakes are another serving option. Leftover chilled risotto is shaped in round patties and coated in bread crumbs. They are then browned in a pan with oil on both sides and can be served with a spicy mayo.
A side salad accompanies a risotto meal.
2 cups of arborio rice (or short grain white rice)
6 cups of low-salt chicken stock
1 onion, diced
½ cup of dry white wine
Half stick (4 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 ½ cups of shredded parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Transfer the rice to a 9 by 13-inch casserole pan and cover tightly with tin foil. Place the dish into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Check on the rice. If it looks too soupy, cook it for a few minutes, but note that with risotto, you are not going for dry rice like pilaf.
Take the rice out of the oven and remove the tin foil. Mix in the parmesan cheese and add salt and pepper to taste.
Pumpkin and bacon risotto:
Add one cup of pumpkin puree and three pieces of cooked and diced bacon to the risotto mixture just before placing in the oven.
Include the white part of one leek, finely diced, and three diced shallots to the base recipe. Sauté the leeks and shallots along with the onions and follow the rest of the recipe.
Shrimp and Pea Risotto
Peel and devein a half pound of shrimp and thaw 1 ½ cups of frozen peas. Mix the raw shrimp into the risotto as soon as you take it out of the oven. The heat of the rice will cook the shrimp in about five minutes. Add the peas to the mixture and mix in the parmesan cheese.
Risotto cakes recipe
Leftover risotto, at room temperature
1-2 cups of panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs), or more depending on the amount of rice
Oil for frying (Peanut oil recommended)
½ to 1 cup of your favorite mayonnaise
Sriracha chili sauce to taste (found in the Asian section of grocery stores)
Press the rice into a third cup-sized measuring cup to create evenly size cakes. Shake the pressed rice out of the cup and coat with the panko bread crumbs.
Add enough oil to come to one inch in a pan. Heat the oil to just before the smoke point and carefully add the risotto cakes. Cook on both sides until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel, let the cakes cool for a few minutes and serve with the chili mayo sauce.
Note: This recipe works with the base recipe and the variations.