Sunday, August 26, 2012

Basic Risotto

Several years ago I hosted three of my nieces for a weekend "Family Cooking Class."  Two of them were engaged to be married and the third was the reason for the event as she was the one who asked if I would teach her how to cook. Along with other of my favorites, I remember teaching them to make Tomato Soup, Homemade Pizza and Basic Risotto.   You might think this is an odd combination, but there was method to my madness. 

When teaching them to make tomato soup, they had to learn how to make a basic white sauce, the foundation for hundreds of recipes.  We had fun making individual pizza, but what I was teaching them was how to work with yeast, and with a Basic Risotto, your possibilities are endless.  

At the end of the weekend, I presented them with a basket of some of the odd ingredients, spices and seasonings we used as well as an electronic copy of the "Oliver Marko Family Cookbook" which I've been writing and continually updating for years.

Although it is simple to make, Risotto does require you  to devote 20 minutes of your undivided attention.  When cooking long grain rice, you are discouraged from stirring the rice while cooking because the starches will release and the rice will end up a sticky mess.  With Risotto, you want the starch to release which is what makes the dish creamy.  That is why we use starchy Arborio Rice and continuously stir during the cooking process.

Basic Risotto Ingredients: 

§ 1 medium onion, finely chopped
§ 3 tablespoons olive oil
§ 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
§ 1 cup Arborio rice
§ 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
§ 1/2 cup dry white wine
§ 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
§ 3 tablespoons butter
§ 3 tablespoons Thyme, finely chopped
§ 3 tablespoons butter
§ Salt and Pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan bring the broth and 1/2 cup water to simmer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover the broth and keep hot over low heat. 

In a medium sized, heavy saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Add the rice and chopped garlic and stir to coat with butter and olive oil.  Add the wine and stir continuously until mixture begins to simmer.

Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes.  Continue cooking the rice adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of the broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and fresh thyme. 

When plated, the Risotto should be saucy and spread in the bowl, not sit in the center of the plate like a scoop of mashed potatoes.  Now that you've made the Basic Risotto, your possibilities are endless

I happen to have a piece of grilled salmon left over from dinner last night.  To the salmon I added 1 cup of peas for the dish you see in the photograph.

Add any or a combination of the following to enhance your Basic Risotto:
§ 1/2 cup Pesto (select the name to access the recipe for Pesto)
§ Cubed butternut squash (cube, drizzle with olive oil and salt and bake until soft)
§ 1 cup cooked vegetables (i.e. asparagus, zucchini, broccoli or artichokes)
§ Sauteed mushrooms and thyme
§ 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded 
For a printer friendly copy of this recipe, go to Basic Risotto.  Enjoy!

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