Food for Thought with Suzanne Dunaway
Risotto is probably the most misunderstood dish on earth. And it is far simpler to make than most believe. In fact, cooking the risotto halfway can liberate a hostess/host to be with guests until the last minutes before serving, and there is no quality lost in the dish itself.
I love risotto because when it is leftover (rarely, so I make too much, haha), it makes the most wonderful little cheese-stuffed rice cakes for yet another meal.
The secret to perfect risotto is not to overcook, which so many restaurants do. Risotto should never be gummy or liquid, and even a creamier risotto must keep the grains feeling just a bit al dente, not starchy or hard, but nicely textured.
And one can make a risotto out of just about anything. My favorites are with one of these: asparagus, petoncles (tiny scallops), tomatoes, saffron and beef or chicken stock, or even apples and parmesan!
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small sweet onion, chopped fine
- 2 cups paella rice (arborio is authentic but I have found paella rice to work very well and it’s available in most markets)
- 1 bunch asparagus (6-8 spears, depending on size), cut into ½-inch lengths (or a generous cup of tiny scallops)
- 1 generous cup white wine
- 2 generous pinches saffron threads
- 5-6 cups chicken broth (fish or shrimp broth if you are using petoncles or chopped scallops)
- ½ cup crème fraiche or Greek yogurt
- Squeeze of lemon
- Fresh basil for garnish, shredded
In a casserole or wide, deep pan, heat the olive oil, add the onion for a few minutes, then add the rice and coat well with the oil. Add the rice and toss with the olive oil, coating each grain.
Cook for a minute or two, add the wine and stir over medium heat or a bit lower until the wine is absorbed. Add the diced asparagus (and/or scallops), add the saffron, then begin adding the broth, a cup at a time, stirring each time until the cup is absorbed. This will take about 15-20 minutes.
When the grains of rice are firm but easily bitten, stir in the crème fraiche or yogurt and serve in bowls garnished with fresh basil.
Here’s the trick for half-cooked risotto: After about the 4th cup of broth, 10 minutes into the process, turn off the heat and place a lid loose over the rice, not covered entirely, just keeping warm.
About 10 minutes before serving, start the process up again over just under medium heat and finish off the risotto, adding the crème fraiche or yogurt at the last. A small dab of butter certainly doesn’t hurt either.
For scallop risotto, add a generous pinch of anise seeds, which love fish dishes.