Risotto, risotto, risotto! Even saying it aloud evokes bouts of sheer delight, reminiscing the luscious, creamy, and velvety risotto. Risotto is the epitome of Italian home cooking and comfort food. A good risotto requires a fair amount of practice and patience since it is very sensitive to timing. That is why I believe what is served in a restaurant (no matter how good it is) will rarely display the rich texture and just the right al dente that a good home-made risotto will. If I had to choose between pasta, risotto, or polenta. The jury is still out between polenta and risotto. Both take the same out of time and effort, yielding the creamiest ever melting in your mouth goodness. You can see my dilemma here. At the end of the day, I savor both but risotto I can eat simply with a spoon whereas polenta I tend to eat with a meat dish with gravy of some sort.
The procedure is relatively simple though labor intensive and time-consuming. All it involves is stirring hot/warm liquid into uncooked rice, one ladle at a time, simmering till the last batch of liquid is absorbed. This technique releases the starches, yielding a creamy and velvety dish. Short grain rice like Arborio works best for risotto. Even in the States, there are quite a few brands available. I do have specific brands which I use only for risotto. My personal favorite is a truffle risotto.
Great risotto is all about technique. It’s about precision in time and using quality ingredients. Once you master it, you’ll be free to experiment with countless flavors. Needless to say that risotto is eaten best hot off the pan. Here I am sharing a basic recipe for a Lemon Risotto. It works well with most proteins such as meat or seafood and even vegetables. Lemon adds the freshness element to the dish, rendering it creamy and refreshing on one’s palate.
- 6 cups unsalted or low sodium chicken stock (best quality)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup arborio rice
- Zest from 1 lemon, finely grated
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano-reggiano cheese grated
- Heat a heavy based deep pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add onions and stir until the onions are translucent.
- Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes until the rice is well coated.
- Add stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly (gently) until each batch is absorbed.
- This should take approximately 20-25 minutes to make the risotto al dente and creamy.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and pepper to taste. Cover the saucepan and let sit for 3 minutes for the flavors to develop.
- Serve immediately warm with choice of protein or vegetable.
I typically make lemon risotto and serve it with either grilled baby lamb chops or spicy sauteed garlic-shrimp. Risotto is quite simple to make; all you need is a few good quality ingredients and a strong-arm.