- When you are making risotto, you need to use a short grained rice. Arborio is what I have always been told is best, but I have had great success with other rices as well. They just need to be short grained, that you can't really work around. Longer grained rices are delicious in their own right, I won't argue that. They just don't cook as fast, or release as much starch as a short grained rice does, and that starch is really important.
- Before adding any liquid to the equation, you need to toast your rice in a skillet with a little oil. This going to do two things for us. First it is going to give the dish a layer of flavor that would really be missing if we just added raw rice to stock. It is also going to give each grain of rice a nice protective coating of fat. This will allow the grains to start cooking without clumping together into a big lump of rice. Because the rice grains are all cooking separately, they will cook much more evenly, and will release a lot more starch.
- Your cooking stock should be hot, abundant and available.
- You need your stock kept at almost a boil, so when it is added to the rice, it is already at cooking temp. Risotto takes a bit of time to cook, and during that process you are constantly adding more stock. If the stock was cooler than the rice you are adding it to, you would have a pan that was constantly being cooled down and then heated back up, over and over again, and it would be very hard to cook the rice evenly.
- You need quite a bit of stock for the amount of rice you are cooking. The traditional 1.5 parts water to 1 part rice equation does not apply here. Remember, this stock is going to be both cooking the rice, and forming the sauce. On top of that, a lot of the stock is going to boil off during the cooking process.
- You need your stock to be easy to get to. Risotto absolutely hates being ignored. If you find yourself needing to leave the risotto pan unattended every time you fetch some more stock, things are probably not going to end well. My favorite way to handle stock, is to keep it in an electric kettle, in arms reach, just to the left of the stove (my right hand is my stirring hand.) If I do not have an electric kettle available, I just keep a sauce pan of stock simmering on the burner closest to the burner that my rice is cooking on.
1 cup short grained rice
2 Tbsp cold margarine
1 large skillet
1 medium sauce pan
1 long handled 1cup ladle (the size and shape of your ladle may vary, but this is my preference.)
knife, cutting board, etc...
- Like I mentioned above, you want your stock to be very hot, just shy of a boil. I usually put it on the heat before I even start cutting veg. That way when I am ready to cook, so is the stock. I don't mind investing time in cooking right, but I hate sitting around just waiting for a pot to boil.
- Add the olive oil to your large skillet and allow it to heat for a few moments over a low to medium flame.
- Add the minced onion, dill and just a touch of salt (to help the onions sweat out)
- Once the onions are starting to cook through (they will turn translucent and smell awesome) add the dry rice.
- At this point you are going to start stirring constantly, and will not stop until the risotto is finished.
- Once the rice starts to smell nutty/toasty, and takes on a slightly golden brown color you are ready to go.
- Turn the heat up to med-high
- Add the wine to the pan CAREFULLY. In a pan this hot, with this little wine, you will probably get a little flame up. That is fine though, it should flare up and then calm down pretty quickly.
- Once the flame is out, add about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of stock. What you are shooting for is to have just enough stock that all the rice is covered, but there isn't much standing stock.
- As the stock boils away/is absorbed continue to add just enough stock to keep the rice covered.
- When you have gone through about half of your stock, add the chopped beets, and immediately follow them with a full ladle of stock (the extra stock will help the temp even back out from the cold veg quicker.)
- Continue adding stock just a little at a time, just to keep the rice covered. As you continue cooking, it will become more of a sauce, so it will be harder to judge if the rice is "covered." At this point, I will judge it more by the consistency of the risotto than by whether the rice is covered or not. The end result should have a smooth creamy sauce, and should just spread out when ladled onto a plate. If the risotto keeps it's shape when ladled, it is too thick. If more than a little sauce spreads out around the rice, it is too thin. This is really a judgement call, and you will get much better at making that judgement, every time you make risotto. The idea I am getting at though, is that as the stock becomes more of a sauce, and it is harder to judge how much stock needs to be added, just think of what your end result is going to be like, and aim to keep it at that consistency throughout the rest of the cooking time.
- When your stock is about 3/4 gone, start tasting the rice after each addition of stock. At this point it should still be under cooked, but tasting early and often is going to make it a lot easier to nail that exact moment when the rice is perfectly done. You want it to be soft, but not mush, still with a little body to it when you take a bite, but no crunch.
- When you finally take a bite that is perfectly done, adjust the salt if necessary (you will probably need to add just a touch) and add enough stock to get that sauce just a little thicker than you think it needs to be (like I said, that will take a little experience.)
- Remove you pan from the heat, add the margarine and stir vigorously until the risotto is nice and smooth.
- This recipe should make 6 starter sized portions or 3 entrees
- Don't fool yourself into thinking you can make risotto with longer grained rice. It just doesn't work. If all you have is a long grained rice, make something that calls for long grained rice.
- Remember, practice makes perfect. Your first few batches will probably be good but less than stellar, but once you get the hang of it, they will be awesome.
- You should have more than enough stock to get your rice to where it needs to be. If you think you are going to run out though, you can always put on another pan with a cup of water to boil. If you run out of stock at the end, it won't hurt to use a little water to carry you through.
- Risotto doesn't like resting. Ideally this should go from the pan to the table with as little time between as you can handle. If you let the risotto sit, the rice will keep cooking and get mushy, and it will soak up all of that delicious sauce.
- EXPERIMENT! I love all difference kinds of risotto, and will regularly use this basic recipe with different spices and add ons to make all sorts of different end dishes. Some of my favorites include sweet potato, spring pea, and walnut. Just remember, different ingredients are going to have different cook times, so you will need to experiment a little with pre-cooking and adding things at different points in the cooking process.