Risotto is excellent comfort food. Creamy rice, lightly bound with cheese and cream, and shot through with flavor. Like polenta, risotto is one of those foods that has lots of goofy cooking myths surrounding it (it takes all afternoon! You have to stand at the stove the whole time! Use only imported $15/lb. rice!), but the reality is that it’s incredibly easy and an excellent weeknight dinner.
We like to make risotto with mushrooms. It’s excellent if you have a few different kinds (I’ve made a few memorable risotti with a combination of wild mushrooms from the farmer’s market), but you can also make a very good dish with button or cremini mushrooms. Other good candidates for risotto: asparagus, spinach, shrimp (stir them in at the last minute and leave out the cheese), peas, bacon, ham, andzucchini. Just remember that the filling shouldn’t overpower the rice.
You’ll also need about a quart of light stock – either chicken or vegetable. If I have homemade stock I’ll use that, but I’ve also had good success with Better Than Bouillon. If your stock is salty, I suggest diluting it a bit (or using less concentrate) as it will get pretty concentrated in the finished dish.
Traditionally, risotto is finished by beating in butter, cheese, and cream, a step known as mantecare. If you’re looking to cut fat, you can omit any of these ingredients, but the texture and flavor will not be the same.
serves 4-6 as a side or 2-3 as a main dish
- 2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon butter to stir in at the end (optional)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (optional – you can also use all stock)
- 4 cups light vegetable or chicken stock, thinned with a little water if it is salty
- 4 ounces any mushrooms, diced into 1/4 inch pieces (you should have about 1 1/2 – 2 cups)
- 1 small onion or large shallot, diced
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 – 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
Warm the stock in a medium saucepan.
In another medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, add the mushrooms and onion or shallot along with a small pinch of salt. Saute until the mushrooms are beginning to brown and the onions are translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the rice and continue to saute until the rice looks shiny and some kernels are slightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Add the wine (or 1 cup stock) and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is almost all cooked off. Add 1 cup of the stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost all cooked off. Continue with the rest of the stock, tasting the rice every time. Stop adding liquid when the rice is tender but still has a bit of bite to it. You might not use all the stock, or you might have to add water at the end if your stock runs out. This is OK.
Stir in the parsley, additional butter, Parmesan cheese, and cream. Stir for about 1 minute. If the risotto looks a little stiff and/or gloopy, add a few tablespoons of water or stock.