Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Long Time Waiting: Simple Risotto

Yes, I've been a little MIA. Between the holidays and a busy start to the new year, cooking and writing here has (sadly) taken a back seat to life. Hopefully that will change!

I've recently fallen back in love with risotto. A real Italian may be horrified with the approach I've taken (OK, using a little freedom when it comes to ingredient choice), though the outcome both tries was utterly delicious.

Adventure One: Last weekend, when visiting a dear friend and her husband in Boston, the plan was to make a wild mushroom risotto. It was only after we poured our second glass of St-Germain and Sauvignon Blanc (and emptied the bottle) did we realize we had no more white wine. Oops. Red would have to suffice. Thankfully, between the dried morels, morel broth, and button mushrooms (oh, and plenty of Parmigiano!), it was delicious. The perfect complement to a Rioja on a bitter, bitter cold winter night.

Adventure Two: The second adventure in risotto-making took place last night, on the Upper East Side. Two friends, a mad craving kale and butternut squash from the greenmarket, and a good bottle of California chardonnay. I proceeded to lead a brief cooking lesson in risotto 101 to my attentive "student." The outcome (made with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc) was delightful. And even more so the next night. Yes, leftovers with my beefalo!

Below is my simple risotto recipe. It's not an authentic risotto per se - but it's easy to remember and versatile when it comes to adding the flavoring of choice. So what's next for me? I'm looking forward to trying a beet risotto topped with lemon zest, poppy seeds, and creme fraiche. Or perhaps zucchini and caramelized onion. Feeling indulgent? Bacon and Parmigiano - a gluten-free, carbonara-inspired dish that satisfies a craving for comfort food.

Simple Risotto

1/4 cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely diced
3 small cloves garlic, minced
3 cups finely chopped vegetables (here I used 1 small butternut squash, and a bunch of dinosaur kale, finely chiffonaded)
3 cups arborio rice
2 cups white wine
Salt, to taste
4-5 cups chicken stock, warm, if necessary
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
Pistachios or toasted pine nuts, for garnish

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and turn to medium. Cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the vegetables (I added the squash. I'd rather have roasted it and waited until the rice had cooked halfway, when I added the vegetables) and cook until halfway tender.

Add the rice and cook until the outside each grain is translucent. Add one cup of white wine and cook, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed. Add remaining wine and continue cooking and stirring. Season with a pinch of salt.

Once the liquid is absorbed, begin adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the rice absorbs it. Continue until the rice is nearly al dente. Add any greens or cooked vegetables, and add any more stock, if needed. Once just done, add 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and season to taste.

Serve immediately, garnished with remaining cheese and nuts, if desired.

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