- Course: Main Course, Side Dish, Starch
- Skill Level: Easy
- Cost: Inexpensive
- Favorited: 18 Times
I like to use a heavy skillet of cast aluminum, plain or enameled cast iron, or copper and stainless steel for risotto—the Italian rice dish in which the grains, though firm, become creamy like a pudding. A pan that will distribute heat and hold it well aids the bubbling activity and gradual absorption of liquid that a risotto requires.
The next important thing is to have good stock or broth. If making seafood risotto, clam juice may be used, but it is best to use homemade chicken, beef, veal, or fish stock if possible. These stocks keep well in the freezer. There are so many variations of risotto that it is always a pleasure to have the wherewithal on had to make it at the last minute. I am particularly partial to chicken and fish stock for risottos because I like to use seafood and various meats and vegetables that blend well with those flavors.
The simplest risotto is made with rice, butter or oil, onion, stock, and Parmesan cheese.
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion, peeled and very finely chopped
- 1 ½ cups rice (long- or short-grain)
- 3 to 4 cups homemade chicken or beef stock, heated
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a heacy skillet; add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring, until light golden. Add the remaining butter and, when it has melted, the rice. Stir the rice around in the butter with a fork until the grains have become coated and almost translucent.
Keep the stock hot in a pan on another burner. When making risotto, the stick is added by degrees, not all at once, so it must be kept at a simmer or the rice will not cook properly. When the rice is coated with butter, pour 1 cup of the stock into a measuring cup and add to the rice. Stir vigorously for a minute with a fork, then let the rice cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is almost absorbed, stirring it now and then so it does not stick to the pan. Add another cup of stick and continue to cook and stir until the liquid is almost absorbed. The rice should bubble and gradually soften and become creamy—at this point, add the stock more cautiously, ½ cup at a time, stirring until it is absorbed. You don’t want to drown the rice with liquid, only add as much as it can absorb. You may find you need less, or possibly more, then the amount specified. As it cooks, taste a grain now and then. When the risotto is done, after 25 to 30 minutes, the rice will be creamy and tender, but still al dente in the center, just firm to the bite, with all the liquid absorbed. Keep stirring well in the final cooking to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan. When done, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and stir it in with the fork. Serve at once, on hot plates.
Variation: Risotto Villa D’Este (Risotto with Smoked Salmon)
Cook the risotto as before, but substitute simmering fish stock for the chicken stock. When the risotto is almost done, stir in ½ cup heavy cream and let it cook down for 1 minute. Then stir in 2/3 cup finely shredded smoked salmon, distributing it evenly throughout the rice, 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, and 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve at once. A tablespoon or two of finely chopped dill may be mixed in for an unorthodox but delicious touch.
© 1977 James Beard