Risotto. The Cadillac of the rice world. Creamy and delicious with a soft crunch to every bite. The rice itself is commonly known as arborio - named after the town of Arborio in Italy - and is a member of the short-grain rice variety. Served as a standalone main course or as a rice bed for a decadent oxtail ragù, risotto is a staple comfort food in Italian cuisine and one that I find appropriate for all seasons.
I think people shy away from risotto because the active cooking time is lengthier and more involved than its brown rice or basmati counterparts. But have no fear! Cooking risotto is easy once you get the hang of it, but it requires some patience and practice. The key is to gradually add the stock in small half-cup portions and wait until the rice has absorbed the liquid before adding more. It's somewhat of a delicate balance. And be sure to stir frequently to keep the rice from sticking to the pan or burning. For successful results, you'll need to keep a close eye on it!
The technique in this recipe is solid base for some fun variations you could try. For example, in step six, add porcini mushrooms instead of the asparagus, or substitute seafood stock and add a cup of fresh bay scallops at the end for a lovely seafood risotto. Just bear in mind that the vegetable(s) or seafood protein that you add to the mix will only need to cook for a hot minute. Oh, and in this recipe I included an optional quarter cup of heavy cream - you may not need it since the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and risotto itself produces a creamy consistency. I just figure that everything is better with a little heavy cream, right?
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 pound asparagus
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 1/4 cup minced yellow onions
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 2 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 3 tbsp butter
- 3/4 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup warm heavy cream (optional)
- Prepare the asparagus. Cut off the tips and peel the spears if the skin appears to be tough. Slice the spears into thin rounds. Wash the asparagus under cool water and pat dry with a dishcloth or paper towel. Set aside a few of the asparagus tips and rounds for garnish.
- Bring the stock to a simmer in a small saucepan.
- In a separate, larger saucepan or Dutch oven, melt half the butter (reserve the remaining 1.5 tbps for later) and add the onion and shallots. Cook over medium heat until translucent, then add the garlic and arborio rice and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently so the mixture doesn't stick to the pan. The rice will crackle softly in the melted butter.
- Add the white wine to the saucepan, then add a 1/2 cup of the chicken stock. Stir frequently, and wait until the rice absorbs the stock, then add another 1/2 cup. Continue ladling in 1/2 of stock at a time.
- Once you've added the last bit of stock, add the asparagus and cook for no longer than 60 seconds. Remove from heat.
- Add the remaining pat of butter, the cheese, the salt and heavy cream. Garnish with asparagus and serve.
If you make this recipe, hashtag a pic to #spiceandhutch and post to Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter. I'd love to see your culinary creations!