Thursday, 17 January 2013

Not just rice, risotto!

Creamy risotto - the more often you make it, the better it gets. Don't give up.

Before I moved to Italy, I had never made a real risotto and I admit that I was really intimidated as I had heard a million times how difficult it is to make this dish. My boyfriend V. asked me pretty early in our relationship if I could make risotto for him, since I loved cooking so much. I choked, smiled and said "sure". Then I started a day long internet research and consulted all the cook books I owned to understand how to make a real Italian risotto. I combined three recipes, planned the cooking process down to the littlest detail and made my first risotto. It turned out alright. V. loved even my first not so perfect version. I improved over time and now I make it about once a week. Every time I made risotto I learned a new things and even included tips from V.'s mum, grandma and aunts.

Risotto is so versatile as you can throw in whatever you have in your fridge. I love to put in one large zucchini and two carrots for example. I made a truffle risotto yesterday, so I will let you know how I made this one, but you can put in anything you want. This recipe is for two eaters.

Step 1: Italian "soffritto"

Before you start, heat the stock, you will need it later.
Making "soffritto" is the most challenging part, but the most important as well. "Soffritto" is what Italians use as a basis for most pasta sauces, soups, risottos and even side dishes. You need the following:

1 carrot
1 small onion
1/2 stick celery
1 tablespoon olive oil
some water or stock

Cut the veggies in very small pieces, the smaller the better, don't be lazy, this is important. Heat oil in the pan but make sure it does not get too hot, low to medium heat is fine. Throw in your veggies and heat slowly. The onion should not burn. You can add water or stock to prevent the veggies from burning. The "soffritto" is ready when the veggies are soft. This takes about 15 minutes.

Step 2: Add the rice

You need:
1/3 cup (75-80 g) risotto rice per person
1/4 cup of white wine
750 ml of hot broth (I use vegetable broth, but you can also use chicken broth)
a few grams of sliced/grated truffles

There are various kinds of rice you can use, the most common type is Arborio, however, I use Vialone Nano. Try different kinds every time you make risotto and you will know which one you like the best.
Do not wash the rice (unless it's brown rice), you need the starch for the risotto.

Add the rice to your "soffritto", turn up the heat to high and stir. After a minute the rice becomes translucent. That's the moment when you need to add your wine.When all the liquid is evaporated (less than a minute), add your first ladle of hot stock and stir gently just to make sure that the rice does not burn on the side of your pan.

 The rice should looks like this after the wine has evaporated.

This is the moment when you put in your veggies such as zucchinis or carrots or in this case the truffles. You can also add a pinch of salt here, but for me, the stock usually is salty enough. Do never put on a lid. Wait until the water is 95 per cent evaporated, then add the next ladle of stock. Repeat this process until either your stock is used up or (this might be sooner or later) the rice has the right consistency. To determine this, you need a bit of experience. When the rice is soft outside and still a bit crunchy inside, I start the following step. Important: start step 3 when the rice is still a bit "harder" than you would actually like to eat it.

Step 3: the final act

You need:
1/3 cup (35 g) grated parmesan or grana padano cheese
1 teaspoon butter (if you like, I don't personally, but it makes the risotto creamier)

On your last ladle, when your rice is a little bit "harder" inside than you would like to eat it, and there is still some liquid around the rice, add the cheese (and butter if you like), put on the cover right away and turn off the heat. Let stand (do not stir) for two minutes. After two minutes, open the lid, stir up the risotto and serve right away!

Italians eat rice as a "primo" after your appetizer and before your main meat dish, however, V. and I often eat only risotto for lunch maybe with a side salad. 80 grams per person does not seem to be a lot of rice, but Italians are very picky about their pasta and rice measurements, because they actually do what we all know: cut down on your carbs!

If your risotto does not turn out perfectly well the first time, do not give up, make it often and you will improve over time. You know you got it right when the inside of the rice is still a tiny bit crunchy and the outside is super creamy - and then you want to make it all the time! I promise!

Vegan tip: Your risotto will still be creamy without the cheese or with any substitute cheese, use a neural tasting oil instead of butter.

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