Risotto Three Ways

Risotto had been on our list of things to make for some time, and a few months ago the slow-motion shots of a Venetian chef flipping risotto on Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations finally compelled us to buy arborio rice.

Since then, we've had three very successful risotto endeavors.

Our first effort was a knockout taste-wise, but too ugly to stand alone in a blog post. (The internet can be cruel.) Then Sycamore chef Mike Odette let me borrow his risotto cookbook, which had great information and fun stories, along with delicious sounding recipes. A few notes:

  • “Risotto is a simple dish, with relatively few ingredients. Consequently, each element gets its share of the limelight and sparkles individually on your palate.” — ie. Use butter, homemade stock and real Italian cheese
  • Risotto doesn't like shortcuts. The stock must be added a cup at a time so it is slowly absorbed by each grain. “Continue the game of add, stir, and wait, until the rice is just slightly resistant to the bite.”
  • “Good raw materials. Simple cooking procedures. No unnecessary frills. That's what Italian cooking is all about.”

Before Michael left, we finished off the arborio rice with our highest quality risotto yet. Homemade stock, a whole stick of butter, saffron, shrimp and scallops, and real Parmesan Reggiano.

Risotto Round I
Risotto

Michael found a Giada De Laurentiis recipe that we modified by adding Italian sausage and locally grown mushrooms.

We knew our additions would work well after only 10 minutes of cooking. With just butter, rice, chicken broth and red wine in the pot, I could almost taste the un-added mushrooms. Sure, the brown fungi and brown sausage didn’t do much for the presentation of creamy brown risotto, but the flavors were spot on. As we ate the finished product, no one could imagine the dish with out the heartiness and slight spice of the sausage.

Somebody tell Giada.

Red Wine Risotto with Peas, Mushrooms and Sausage

Original recipe from Giada de Laurentiis' Everyday Italian

  • 32 oz. low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup arborio rice, or medium-grain white rice
  • 1 cup of mushrooms (our addition)
  • 2 Italian sausage, removed from casing (our addition)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (We used curly parsley and it didn't taste wrong.)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper (With the broth and sausage, ours didn’t need additional salt.)

Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the broth and keep it warm over very low heat. (Don’t forget to cover. We left it open and lost some of our liquid.)

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. (We used a big stockpot.) Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice is toasted. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Repeat, adding 3/4 cup of hot broth 2 more times, stirring often, about 12 minutes longer. At this point, the risotto can be made 4 hours ahead. Refrigerate the risotto (the rice will still be firm) and remaining broth, uncovered, until cool, then cover and keep them refrigerated until ready to proceed.

Bring the remaining broth to a simmer, then cover and keep it warm over very low heat. Brown sausage in a separate pan. Stir 3/4 cup of hot broth into the partially cooked risotto over medium heat until the broth is absorbed and the risotto is hot, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining broth and simmer until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, about 5 minutes longer. Add chunks of sausage and chopped mushrooms. When rice is at the right consistency, stir in the peas and parsley. (We added our peas too soon, so they lost their bright green color.) Add the 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into bowls. Sprinkle additional cheese over and serve. Serves 4.

Risotto Round II

chicken-risottoMichael took the reins on this one. It was certainly prettier than our first risotto, and totally different, but just as good in taste. The tomatoes melted into almost nothing, but the bell peppers stayed just firm enough and offered a nice bite of sweetness. The chicken was salty and a bit spicy from red pepper flakes.

Tomato and Bell Pepper Risotto with Chicken

Michael's original recipe

  • 32 oz. low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup arborio rice, or medium-grain white rice
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 4 chicken tenderloins, cut in small strips
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh Italian parsley or basil

Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the broth and keep it warm over very low heat.

Dice the bell pepper and tomatoes, and set aside.

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. (We used a big stockpot.) Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice is toasted. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Just keep stirring and adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time as the rice absorbs the liquid.

When you have used a little more than half the broth, stir in the diced tomatoes and bell pepper. Keep stirring and adding broth 1/2 cup at a time until all the liquid has been absorbed, the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy. Stir in grated cheese. Remove from heat and cover.

In a skillet with a little olive oil, cook chicken pieces with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. When cooked through, serve on top of risotto with parsley (fresh basil would be really good, but we didn't have it) and more grated cheese.

Risotto Round III

It is incredibly hard to pick a favorite out of the three risotto recipes we tried, but this might have been mine. Shrimp is one of my favorite foods — has been since I was a kid. (Another sign I was meant to be a foodie: when my elementary school friends listed their favorite food as pizza, I always chose shrimp, which was harder to draw with crayons, I remember.)

Shrimp and Scallop Risotto with Saffron

Recipe pooled from ideas in Risotto: A Taste of Milan

  • 1 quart good stock (seafood stock is preferred but we used a homemade chicken stock)
  • 1 cup arborio rice, or medium-grain white rice
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 or 3 small tomatoes, chopped (romas or those on the vine, not the huge tasteless ones. Halved cherry tomatoes would be good, too)
  • large shrimp and scallops, or other seafood (Hard to say how much, depends on how far you want to stretch the meal. There were just two of us so we only had a few shrimp and scallops each. Also, we used sea scallops and cut them smaller. Otherwise use bay scallops. We used tail-on tiger shrimp.)
  • pinch or two of saffron
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano, plus more for serving on top
  • handful of fresh basil, chiffoned

Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover the broth and keep it warm over very low heat.

Clean and peel the shrimp. Cut the scallops if needed. Dice the tomatoes, and set aside. Chop the onion.

Melt half the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. (We used a big stockpot.) Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Stir in the rice and cook for about 2 minutes until the rice is toasted. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Just keep stirring and adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time as the rice absorbs the liquid.

When most of the stock has been used, melt the remaining butter in a large skillet. Add seafood and cook until shrimp turn pink. When nearly cooked through, add seafood to the risotto pot.

Add saffron to the remaining broth. Keep stirring risotto and adding saffron broth 1/2 cup at a time until all the liquid has been absorbed, the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy. Stir in grated cheese. Remove from heat and cover.

Slice basil and prepare bowls for serving. Top dish with the basil and more grated cheese.

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6 Replies to “Risotto Three Ways”

  1. Wow that shrimp and scallop risotto looks SO gourmet! Being from Asia, I used to think adding butter to rice was such a strange concept but now I TOTALLY get it!

  2. Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice. It is named after the town of Arborio, in the Po Valley, where it is grown. When cooked, the rounded grains are firm, creamy, and chewy, due to its higher amylopectin starch content;[1] thus, it has a starchy taste but blends well with other flavours. It is used to make risotto, although Carnaroli, Maratelli and Vialone Nano are sometimes used to prepare the dish. Arborio rice is also used for rice pudding..

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