Friday, May 05, 2006

Recipe Friday

Brian

Recipe Friday, which you all thought had gone the way of the Hawaiian duck with eyes in the back of its head, has instead gone the way of the ivory-billed woodpecker. Today's recipe is as easy as it is uncommon in the repertoire of the casual cook:
I know, I know, it sounds so Italian and restauranty. Except for the Ratso part, which is optional. But the truth is, if you can make pasta, you can make risotto. In fact, apparently in Northern Italy, from whence my college roommate's ancestors hailed, they prefer risotto to the traditional Southern pasta. What is risotto? It's basically a creamy sort of rice. And if you want to make it quick, it's insanely easy.

You'll need:
  • 2/3 cup arborio rice (This is a round, white, Italian rice you can find in any market that has a selection of rices, which is just about any market. You can do risotto with other sorts of rice, but some folks will tell you that's not really risotto. If you want to do it right, get the arborio.)
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 packets of chicken bouillon granules
  • 2 tbsp store-bought grated parmesan or 1/4 cup fresh parmesan that you grated yourself

You'll also need to use:
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • A large sauce pan with a lid
  • Knives
  • A cutting board
  • A spatula
  • A stove

To get started, clean the onions and garlic. Cut off the white ends of the onions and slice the green stalks as thinly as possible into little rings. Peel off the paper from the garlic, cut the ends off, and dice it into pieces as small as possible. Other fun things to do with garlic: (1) if you've got a garlic press, stick in it and smash it through; (2) lay it flat on the cutting board and mash it to bits by pressing the flat side of the knife down on top of it. Don't hurt yourself.

Heat the butter and oil in the sauce pan over medium-high heat. In a pinch, you could use just butter or just oil, but the butter adds a creamy taste and the oil keeps the butter from burning, so they work best in tandem. When it is melted, add the sliced onion and diced garlic. Fry those, stirring them with your spatula, until they are tender but not brown. If they start to go brown, you're going a little too far.

Add the rice. Stir the rice around with the vegetables, butter, and oil for a couple minutes, but once again, if it starts to go brown, stop.

Add the water and bouillon. If all you've got are the cubes rather than the packets of granules, you should heat the cubes in the water separately until they break down and make broth. Otherwise, you can add them both at the same time. When you add the water, the pan should be hot enough that it sort of flash-sizzles for a couple seconds until the water cools it down. Now turn the heat up to high until the water starts to boil. Then, smack the lid on, turn the heat down to low, and simmer the risotto for twenty minutes. Don't remove the lid during that twenty minutes! If you do, two things could happen: One, seeing the risotto cooking process could put you into shock and you would simply pass out. Or two, it could create a time paradox, the results of which could start a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe!

When the twenty minutes are up, remove the pan from the heat and take off the lid. It should look like creamy rice, which means a little liquidy. If there's a tad too much liquid, you can cook it over low heat for a couple minutes, stirring, with the lid off to evaporate some water. If there's too little liquid, you could just add a little water. Add your parmesan cheese and stir it all up. Voila!

The risotto you just made is basically a plain risotto. Like pasta, risotto can come in all sorts of variations. You can add various vegetables or meats for variety. If you want to add chicken, sausage, or beef, cook it first in small pieces (as in, cut the chicken into the size of pieces you'd like in a salad and then cook it, or just brown ground beef like you would if you were making sloppy joes). If you're going to add vegetables, you can either do it at the start, along with the onion and garlic (which is best for hard vegetables, like celery or carrots), or at the end, either when it is done cooking or a couple minutes before that point (which is best for softer vegetables, like tomatoes).

Indexed by tags food and drink, recipes, risotto.
Image credits: "Risotto alla zucca," Spuma, courtesy Flickr, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.
Adapted from the easy risotto recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

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