by John Ryan
Okay, here's the drill:
Sauté 1 medium onion in a liberal amount of olive oil, say 1/4 cup, until the onion is soft. Then add a cup of Arborio rice and stir until the rice turns translucent and you can see the center of each rice kernel. Then start stirring in water, 1/2 cup at a time. You'll use about 4 cups total, but that is only a rough estimate. While you're adding the water, adjust your burner so the rice and water simmer. (If your burner is too high all the water boils off and the rice doesn't cook.) When the rice is done, add cheese such as grated Parmesan, fresh goat cheese, or mascarpone (an Italian product similar in texture to sour cream.) Start with 1/4 cup and stir in cheese to taste. The cheese will thicken the broth even more. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and serve.
Of course, you can and should use chicken broth, wine, beer, vegetable broth or beef broth instead of water. But keep in mind that much of the broth is going to evaporate, so if you're using bouillon cubes or canned broth, don't use straight chicken broth or your risotto will come out too salty. As a rule of thumb, I use half chicken broth, half water. If you want to use wine or beer, think of it as water. For instance, for 1 cup of rice you'll need about 4 cups of liquid. If you use 1 cup of wine, then mix 1 cup of water with 2 cups of chicken broth.
Many recipes have you heat the broth. I never do this. Not that there is anything wrong with heating up the broth, I just don't like to get another pan dirty. If you have a microwave, heat the broth up in a heat-proof measuring cup.
It's important to stir risotto frequently to develop the thick sauce, but you don't have to be a slave to it. I've even added all 4 cups of water/broth at once and simply stirred every few minutes and the risotto came out fine.
This is the traditional rice used to make risotto. Plain old short-grain white rice makes a pretty good risotto, but Arborio, in my experience, is better. I've tried long-grain rice and don't like it. Long-grain rice is designed to cook up dry and fluffy, the opposite of what risotto is about.
Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.
This page created February 2000
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