I do have an exception to my "no rice" rule, unfortunately--though perhaps predictably--it's a labor intensive one. Risotto. But between me and these creamy waves of grain lays a lot of stirring, and grating, and stirring, and many bubbling pots, and also stirring. Consequently, risotto has been relegated to a column in my diet labeled "strictly restaurant fare." But a recent craving (bolstered by some virtual encouragement from my kitchen-philosophy-crush Mark Bittman), and somehow all of my rice/risotto related rules began to resemble mere suggestions. So, I was off to the kitchen to stir my life away. Luckily, the results were really, really good, and along the way I discovered a few tricks that may just make risotto a staple in my kitchen....
1. Don't be too tied to recipes: Risotto is just al dente individual grains masquerading as a creamy porridge. It takes patience, yes, but not really precision. You do not need freshly grated parmigiano reggiano flown in from Italy last night after being aged in some cave for twelve years. You need some hard-ish cheese. For me, this came in part from a crust of asiago that had been aged for a couple of months in the door of my fridge. The same goes for every ingredient. No arborio rice? Use brown rice, or farro, or Israeli couscous etc.
2. Screw homemade stocks: Slow-food enthusiasts will skewer me for this, but I want to punch the author in the face every time I read a recipe specifying how homemade stock is "preferable." No Sh*t. But please, ain't nobody got time for that! Of course it's preferable, but I'm a busy lady who's already taking time to make risotto, so Imma just slum it and subject the poor souls I'm feeding to something produced in a factory in
3. You do not need to have a million (or even just two) pots boiling the whole time you're cooking: Yes your broth ought to be warm, but I don't have a huge range (or kitchen for that matter), so it gets a bit claustrophobic if I go the traditional two-pot route. Instead, take a jar with a lid, add hot water and some better than bouillon and shake it up. If it gets cold just throw the jar in the microwave for a minute. This also saves you from making way too much (or too little) stock, because this method is batch bound by nature.
4. Stir less: I know it sounds like this goes against the main tenet of the art of risotto, but it's true! If you stir too much your porridge will be gummy and gross, and then you will be sad because you spent all of this time trying to make a special meal only to have it turn out like a horrible savory candy that your cousin says is "actually very popular in Mongolia." So relax, pass a spoon through right before adding additional stock, and be a bit more attentive towards the end.
5. TREAT YO SELF!: (<-- double punctuation for emphasis) Add the wine, and pour a glass for the chef while you're at it. Using tasty cheese? Great! Just add a lil Edith Piaf and you've got yourself a fancy micro-soirée!
1 T butter
1 T evoo
2 cloves garlic--diced
1 1/2 C. dry farro (white/brown rice etc.)
1 C. white wine (or red)
6 C. (approx.) stock--6 C water + 2T better than bouillon
1 1/2 C. veggies (I used golden beets, fresh corn and rainbow chard)
1/2 C. grated hard-ish cheese (I used the aforementioned asiago and some sharp cheddar)
salt and fresh grated pepper and nutmeg to taste
Sweat the garlic in the fats, then add grain and toast a bit. Add the wine and let the grain absorb before adding about a cup of broth. Continue this process of adding and allowing to absorb/evaporate. Halfway through your broth additions add any firm veggie (beets, autumn squash, sweet potato etc. this should all be cut into relatively small cubes), then when you think your risotto is alllllmost there throw in the more tender additions (corn, peas, asperigus, greens). Stir in cheese, season to taste and enjoy!