I haven’t cooked risotto until till I was married. Sadly, I’ve never heard of Risotto until I’ve watched Hells Kitchen. People still debate to this day whether risotto is a type of rice or pasta. Risotto, or Arborio rice, is a a short grain starchy Italian rice. It is featured in many Italian and Mediterranean side dishes. Unlike regular rice, risotto is not just boiled in water. When prepared well, it has a rich, creamy texture, with each individual grain of rice standing out clearly and having a hint of a bite, rather than being soft or mushy. Some Italian restaurants offer risotto, and it is also possible to make this dish at home. Many grocers also sell boxed versions, with the claim that cooks can just add water or broth, although purists believe that this results in an inferior product. A basic recipe can be modified to accommodate any number of spices, vegetables or meats.
Making risotto can be a complicated process. It requires some patience, practice and diligence. But once you’ve mastered the technique in cooking risotto, the next time you make this side dish should be a cinch to you. It took me a couple times to make this dish right. It generally starts with frying rice, onions, herbs, and garlic in oil, butter, or a mixture of the two until everything is evenly coated and slightly translucent. Then, white wine is splashed in and the mixture is continually stirred until the wine has evaporated. Next, broth is added in small amounts at a time, while the cook continues to stir the rice. As the broth evaporates, more is added, with the entire process taking around 20 minutes from the time the wine hits the pan. Once the rice is perfectly cooked, with a slightly chewy texture, the risotto is pulled off the heat and freshly grated cheese is quickly mixed in. The result is a dish with a creamy flavor and a slightly chewy texture. Typically, a small amount of broth remains, and some cooks add a little bit of butter to make their risotto even creamier. The dish is typically served on its own, often as a starter.
Precise recipes for risotto vary. Some cooks add meats, seafood, or vegetables during the pan-frying process, creating a more hearty dish. Saffron is a commonly used herb, but risotto can also feature oregano, thyme, parsley, and other ingredients. Since saffron is the most expensive spice out there, most cooks do without it. Traditionally, it is made with Italian arborio rice, a medium grain rice which is widely cultivated in Italy. For this recipe, I used mushrooms and peas. I wanted to make this dish exclusively a mushroom pea risotto but only had the frozen pea-carrot mixture so I went with that. I suppose some extra carrots won’t kill anyone. Like most rice/pasta side dishes, risotto is very flexible and you can use any vegetable your heart desires. Or you can eat is as it is without the vegetables as I have once before. I like to sprinkle some chives on top of it and perhaps some Parmesan cheese. The choice it yours.
For this recipe, you will need:
- 1 cup of risotto
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 3/4 cup of dry white wine
- 5-6 cups of chicken/vegetable broth
- 1 carton of mushrooms sliced
- 2/3 cup of frozen peas (carrot/pea mixture) thawed
- 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried rosemary
- Salt and pepper for taste
- 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped chives and/or parsley for garnish (optional)
Bring broth to a simmer in a sauce pan. Heat olive oil in heavy, medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions, mushrooms, and peas and saute for 5 minutes. Add the rice and herbs, and stir to combine. Pour in wine and stir till absorbed. Pour in 1 ladle of broth at a time constantly stirring. Wait till the risotto has completely absorbed the liquid before adding more broth. This process will take about 20-25 minutes. The rice should be just cooked and slightly chewy. Turn off the flame. Allow the risotto to sit for a minute or 2. Stir in Parmesan cheese (optional). Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley and/or chives.
Yields 4-6 servings