Whoever coined the phrase "time waits for no man" never had risotto. While it requires a gentle touch and time to cook, it must be eaten immediately, possibly sooner than a souffle. But when made right, risotto is the perfect combination of simplicity and genius.
The two prerequisites for risotto are the proper rice and time. Starchy, short grain Arborio rice gives risotto its quintessential creamy consistency that is the hallmark of the dish. Hot liquid, generally stock of some sort, is then added in stages, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid and plump gradually.
Here are a few additional tips:
- Dairy is a must. Risotto comes from Northern Italy, which is famous not only for great wine, cured meats and rice, but also for its dairy products. Thus, risotto is not a dish made with olive oil, but rather butter and cheese. The rice and onions are initially cooked in butter and then well-flavored cheese and more butter are added just before serving. I actually prefer adding whipped cream rather than butter at the end. It's not traditional but, oh, so good, and a fitting final touch.
- Stir gently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula (instead of a metal spoon) so as not to damage the rice.
- Cook only until the rice is al dente. Too often risotto is overcooked, starchy and mushy. The genius of risotto is that the rice should be delightfully chewy and coated in a rich sauce.
—Chef Chris Koetke, dean of the School of Culinary Arts, Kendall College, Chicago, Ill.
1. Sauté mushrooms quickly in a hot skillet.
2. Sauté rice in butter to coat each individual grain.
3. Add hot broth in 1/2-cup increments, letting the rice fully absorb the liquid before adding more.
4. When rice is al dente, fold in cream.
5. Just before serving, fold in mushrooms and cheese.