Another Risotto Story...


Something that a lot of people love to eat but could never make because it's waaaayyyytoohard!



Well, the way too hard part is wrong anyway AND that's one of the many reasons why I love to teach the Risotto Workshop.  Not only do you learn all about risotto (the first thing is that it is NOT rice) but you get to make it during class.  And that, my friends, is the only way to learn how to make with your own two hands!  I love risotto; I love to make risotto; and, I love to teach people how to make risotto.

One of the first questions I get in class is:  "Are you going to yell at us like Gordon Ramsey does in Hell's Kitchen?"  Typically, no, I will not.  But, if I were in Hell's Kitchen with all of those idiots not making risotto properly...I might be inclined to scream at them like Chef does.

No, our atmosphere is quite calm and actually fun.  I think that's probably the best way to learn how to do something, don't you?  Under fire is not my preferred teaching method.

In a risotto workshop, I demonstrate a basic risotto (which I will share at the end of this post).  I walk everyone through the steps and then have people take turns stirring from beginning to end and tasting for texture. 

After that risotto is finished, they get to eat it and then they are off to make their own.  Now you are not set off on your in numbers, you know.  So everyone is paired up and they make a different risotto.

We've made red, green, wild mushroom, butternut squash and more.  It's always fun to go with seasonal food so in the last class, we tackled Butternut Squash, Wild Mushroom and Red Wine.  Risotto, as I mentioned earlier, is not the rice.  The rice is arborio or something similar to arborio, in other words, short grained rice.  My favorite rice (and the one I keep in my home pantry) is carnaroli.  It is the rice that most Italians use and it makes a beautiful risotto.  It absorbs the wine and broth quickly and cooks to creamy perfection.  And, you must coax all of the starch from the rice during the cooking.  The constant stirring and adding warmed broth to the rice is what creates the creamy texture and the end result of risotto so it is the cooking method not the rice itself.  You can actually make any number of grains or even potatoes (waxy, please, or you will end up with mashers) using the risotto method.  That's why you'll see dishes named on menus like "farrotto" meaning they cooked the ancient grain, farro, using the risotto method.

The challenge of risotto is not the rice or the cooking of it.  The challenge of making a great or even good risotto is, well...patience.  Risotto cannot be rushed otherwise you've just got a pot of boiled rice.  It must be stirred and watched, preferably lovingly, because Italian food is made with love.  So when you decide that you want to make risotto, grab a glass of wine and relax.  Turn on some tunes (not a movie or TV that you will be inclined to watch) or bring in someone for moral support and conversation, set aside 25 minutes and just do it!  It is not hard but it requires practice and patience.  The rice must be stirred.  The broth or stock must be very warm.  The texture must be creamy with the rice grains al dente.  The starch from the rice creates the creaminess, not cream.  And, don't forget another important element in making risotto - layering flavor.  Starting with the onions softened in butter, then just barely toasting the rice grains so they release their nutty fragrance,  to the wine, the broth and then any other extra ingredients you add (to make it your own). Of course, the class has to sample the fruits of its labor.  When everyone is finished, the risotto pans are left on the stations in a family-style fashion so it's a "serve yourself" dinner. So that's our risotto story and all of those people made risotto and shared it and hopefully, will be making it at home very soon!  And, as promised, here is the recipe for Basic Risotto.  See!  It's not even a long one!

Basic Risotto

Serves 4

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 tbsp unsalted butter

1 cup Arborio rice

¼ to ½ cup white wine

3 to 4 cups chicken stock, heated

¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

2 tbsp unsalted butter

Heat chicken stock in a large saucepan over low heat.  Melt 3 tbsp butter in a large heavy saucepan. Add onion and cook over medium heat until the onion is soft. Add rice stirring to coat with butter until grains are almost translucent. Add wine, cook and stir until it is completely absorbed. Begin adding stock, about 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until it is completely absorbed then add the next cup of stock. Continue this process until the rice is tender and creamy but still slightly al dente. Remove rice from the heat, add Parmigiano, and butter. Cover and allow cheese and butter to melt and rice to finish cooking, approximately 5 additional minutes. Stir and serve.

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