Things My Mother Never Taught Me: On Risotto

I often am asked for recipes of dishes I’ve shared, this risotto being one of them.  While I have certain recipes that I’m hoarding to claim as “special” (diabetic coma cookies, blueberry cobbler, etc.), this is a Spring Vegetable Risotto commercially published by Cooks Illustrated and I more than happily give them the credit for it. I’ve added a few tweaks that I probably couldn’t quantitate, but those tweaks generate the content of this post.

I love to cook.  I love to bring amazing food to share with friends, family, and even complete strangers.  I think meals and enjoying the the elements that feed us together are an important aspect of life and are certainly a central aspect of society.  That being said… I am picky, I HATE food that is butchered.  I survive on what I eat and I think it should taste good; I get very bitter when I eat out and think I could have done much better myself.  So when people ask me for recipes like risotto, I am very hesitant, as it took a solid 4 years of adjusting and being picky to get my risotto perfect.  If I just gave you the recipe who knows what would happen.

To be fair, risotto is one of the dishes I concoct that requires attention to detail and a bit of finess.  Now that I’ve given you an absolutely fantabulous recipe for risotto, I want to give you some tips for learning how to cook (it).

#1 – Start with a good recipe, or guidance, or know what you are doing.  I don’t care what about.com or the first site in the google search says, even if it is epicurious, start with something good.  Read the recipe, read the reviews, I’m willing to place money that almost anything from Cooks Illustrated will be more than half-way decent. But without this, it’s like trying to ride a K-mart bicycle in Le Tour, you’ll be off the back from the get go.

#2- Your broth is 80%, find a good recipe and then spend the extra 30-45 minutes to boil the broth.  You’ll never be sorry you did this.  If you have a kid, invite a girlfriend over for a glass of wine and dinner, send dad off with the kid, whatever it takes.  Also, make an extra cup of broth.

#3 – Don’t skip the wine.  If you absolutely must, you need to approximate your acidity with lemon juice, but its not quite the same, either in tenderness or in flavor.

#4- Use a wide, shallow dutch oven, cast-iron skillet, tagine, or similar.  Having a good dish with even temperature distribution and heating on the side walls will make a huge difference in how evenly your risotto cooks

#5 – Use a wooden spoon to stir.  I didn’t believe it either, but those risotto need a beating!

#6 – No shortcuts!  You’re in for 90 minutes in reality, just relax and go with it; this is what the wine is for!  I am serious, I’ve cooked with the 18 minute risotto recipes, they make something along the lines of rice, it’s not risotto.

#7- Turn your heat source down a little bit lower than you think it should be.  This is a slow absorbing process, not a boil the broth off faster than you cook the rice.  My rule of thumb is that the broth you add should be just below a bubbly simmer, at least until the very end.

#8- Don’t be afraid to taste test!  This is how you learn, how you make the tweaks and adjustments in butter, broth, flavors, cooking time, temp, etc. You’ll know when you have it right.

In my opinion, at the end, you won’t have to add liquid, salt, pepper, or even cheese.  This should set up nicely as a creamy dish (without the cream!) full of flavor.  Have fun with it, make it your own!

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3 thoughts on “Things My Mother Never Taught Me: On Risotto

  1. *Note: In the context of 90 minutes, I am referring to more or less the all together time; your cooking time for 1 1/2 C dry arborio rice in a nice wide shallow cooking vessel will realistically be 40-45 minutes

  2. Pingback: Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto « meandhpp

  3. Pingback: writer’s block, runner’s block, blogger’s block | seekingsunrise

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