Saturday, April 30, 2016

Creamy Risotto - A delicious dinner in 30 minutes.

For a great, easy meal, consider risotto. For this Italian meal consisting of a short soft creamy rice and about anything else you desire you don't even need a recipe; just more of a technique which I will describe below.

Julian's Chicken Mushroom Risotto
This classic Italian comfort food is Arborio rice cooked in meat or seafood stock and seasoned with Parmesan or another cheese to add creaminess and flavor.  I usually toss in some mushrooms and carrot for color, but that too is optional. Below I provide you the basic technique and notes on what options you have.

Today I'm making mine with stock I prepared after last winter's roasted chicken, but if you have good ham, turkey or fish stock in the freezer, this is an excellent way to use it. Mine has a few vegetables and pieces in it, which will work fine, but is optional. The nice thing is you can even use a canned stock and it will still be good. Whatever you use should be at room temperature or warm. Since I'm starting with frozen stock, I'll have a hot pot on the stove. If you are using canned, you can go with room temperature, but not cold/refrigerated, as it will slow the cooking. If using a canned stock that isn't very strong tasting, use a cheese that has a stronger flavor to compensate like Pecorino, Parmesan or even Pepper Jack cheese.

Prep your Ingredients
While the broth/stock heats, chop your onions, garlic and grate your optional carrots. Shred your cheese (I prefer Pecorino or Parmesan, but they must be freshly grated to melt properly. Any cheese will do. You need about 1/3 of a cup grated.) I'm adding some mushrooms to the stock above for even more flavor, so I've chopped that as well and added it to the pot of liquid. Open your bottle of white wine.

Start by Sauteing Onions
Choose a heavy pot or Dutch oven and place it over medium heat with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Add some finely diced onion, shallot or leek. Add a couple cloves of chopped garlic and stir until the onions are soft and translucent, 3-4 minutes. .

Add Arborio Rice
I make about 1/2 cup per person for large servings, or half that for small bowls. The rice doubles in size as it cooks, so don't worry if it doesn't look like enough when you begin. Add the rice to the cooked onion mixture and stir to coat in the oil, about 1 minute.

Add Optional Grated Vegetables
Along with the rice you can also add some finely-shredded carrots, which can give your risotto a nice color and add extra flavor. But since I have carrot in my stock already, I'll just add it in larger chunks when I add the chicken stock.

Add White Wine
Increase the heat to medium-high and add wine into the pot, about 1/3 cup. I don't measure and you shouldn't either. You can use any kind of white wine that you have open but I prefer Chardonnay. If you don't have wine you can use a dry vermouth or dry sherry.  Stir constantly until it's reduced by more than half.

Stir in Broth/Stock
Add enough of broth/stock you're using to fully cover your rice, then stir. You don't have to stir it constantly, but stir it often at this stage. When half the liquid has been absorbed, add more broth and start stirring again. A slow steady stir is desirable at this stage so you can insure it does not dry out and stick. You want the rice to stay pretty wet and soupy so it has a chance to form that nice, creamy texture it is known for. I usually repeat this step one more time, adding a third round of broth/stock cooking it until it is al dente, but not mushy. Turn the heat to low.

Stir in Dairy and Solids
Add a tablespoon or two of butter and stir in. Stir in the shredded cheese of your choice. If adding raw peeled and cleaned shrimp, stir them in now to cook (3-4 minutes). Add some heavy cream (a tablespoon or two will do, or substitute milk, buttermilk or other favorite dairy product. They all add creaminess to the dish.)

Taste and Season
Now taste the risotto, season it with salt and pepper to your taste. Add a little lemon zest, orange zest, chili flakes, or a squeeze of lemon juice if needed for flavor.

Julian's Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Risotto

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