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Risotto for Dinner
One of the great benefits of travel in my opinion is the opportunity to taste new foods and steal great recipes, which is how I came to have this easy Risotto recipe. This recipe is extremely versatile and can make a delicious dinner when you are too tired to cook a full meal.
Risotto is made with a particular type of rice, Arborio, which has a fatter, but shorter grain. When it is cooking, it throws off a little more starch which you need to get the proper creamy consistency for Risotto. Using any other type of rice, such as Uncle Ben's long grain rice, will give you a poor result, so purchase the Arborio rice and just keep it on your shelf.
Once you master the basic recipe, you can vary it depending upon the season and what is available fresh at your market, or what you have in your refrigerator that you need to use up.
Makes dinner for 2 - serve with a glass of white wine. This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.
1 cup of Arborio dried rice
2T real butter
3 cloves of garlic
1 large shallot
1T real fresh thyme leaves
white wine or champagne
fresh lemon juice
Begin by dicing your garlic and shallots and saute them in the butter on medium low heat. Be careful not to have the heat too high because if the garlic starts to burn, it will be very bitter and ruin the taste of the dish. Saute until the shallots and garlic starts to turn translucent and then add the fresh thyme leaves. Immediately take off of the heat and stir the thyme into the butter/shallot/garlic mixture. Cook 1.5 cups of the rice according to package instructions but do not add salt or pepper. Once the rice has become cooked and is a little fluffy, add the shallot/garlic/butter/thyme mixture into the rice and incorporate it well.
Then add about 1/2 c of white wine or champagne (I have used flat champagne when I had it leftover and it gives a more delicate taste; otherwise use whatever white wine you have that would be considered drinking quality but avoid anything too sweet. Stick with chardonnay, white bordeaux, champagne or fume blanc.) Stir into the rice mixture and incorporate it completely over a low heat. You will start to see the rice releasing some starch which will make the liquid a little milky looking.
Once the wine has been fully incorporated into the mix, add about 1/4 c of good quality chicken broth (you can use homemade, but that is too much trouble for me so I use store-bought Swanson's or Kitchen Basics) and over low heat, incorporate fully. You'll see the rice starting to make a milky "gravy". Once the broth is fully incorporated, add another 1/4 c of chicken broth and repeat the process until the rice has a thick milky looking consistency. If necessary, add another 1/4 c of the broth but with 1/2 to 3/4 c of the broth, you should have the correct consistency.
Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Make sure you incorporate the seasoning fully before you proceed with the last steps.
Add 1/3-1/2 c of heavy cream and stir into the rice mixture, incorporating the cream completely. It will look a little soupy, which is fine. Then using a microplane, grate about 1 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into the mixture. Incorporate the cheese completely and it will melt into the cream. Finally, squeeze the juice of half a lemon into the mix and stir in to incorporate the juice completely. At this point, check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste if you feel it needs it. The cheese is very salty so taste before you add more salt.
The finished product should spread a little on the plate with a consistency of oatmeal. I like mine a little less soupy than traditional risotto, but the traditional consistency is that it should spread on a plate slowly but definitely.
VARIATIONS ON THE RECIPE
You can eat it just like this, but for variations:
1. At the very end, toss in 3/4 cup of frozen sweet green peas, stir and cover the pot for just a few minutes. The peas will cook in no time even off of the heat.
2. Saute sliced mushrooms in a little butter until browned. I like mine a little crispy on the edges. Once done, place a heaping tablespoon full on top of each plate or bowl of risotto and serve.
3. Boil fresh asparagus until just starting to get tender. Slice the stems in 2-3 inch long pieces and place on top of each plate or bowl of risotto.
4. Roast butternut squash pieces and mash well when done then fold into the risotto at the end.
Should you have any leftover risotto, you can refrigerate and then reconstitute a day or two later by putting back in a pan and add a little chicken broth and a little wine and stir well until you get a consistency of oatmeal. If necessary add a little more cream and a little more cheese and serve.