Part 3: How to Make a Classic Risotto
BY JACQUELYN DUGGAN
This is part 3 of a 3 part series. In my first post, I shared how to roast a whole chicken. A “pretty great” one at that! In Part 2, I covered a simple chicken stock recipe.
One word, many opinions! Since I’ve become an avid home cook over the last 5 years or so, I have come to love risotto. However, it hasn’t always been that way. In the spring of 2018: my mom and I took a cooking class together to learn the art of making risotto. I was so timid going into the class, wishing we hadn’t signed up. My perfectionistic heart could hear Tom Colicchio’s voice on Top Chef (any other fans out there?) scolding his chefs for undercooking their risotto in the back of my mind. I kept thinking, why did we do this? Let’s just stick to pasta!
But alas, I totally fell in love with the process; it stays with me as a turning point in my journey with cooking. Risotto has come to be a meditative practice for me: the warm, creamy-like texture plus the process of standing at the stove is nourishing to my heart on even my weariest of days.
And honestly, risotto is not as hard to make as everyone makes it out to be – it just takes time and patience, which are virtues of their own, I know. I’ve detailed below how to make risotto the way I learned (thanks to Chef Brian!), and I hope you come to love it as much as I do. The best part? The stock you learned to make in my last post is what you’ll use here. See how this all came together? One chicken, three recipes.
DAIRY FREE (if modified), GLUTEN FREE, NUT FREE, SOY FREE
Serves 4 | Active Time: 35 minutes
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+ 1 Dutch oven (Note – the Staub or Le Creuset are both beautiful lifetime purchases, but if you’re looking for something more cost-friendly, the Calphalon is excellent too!)
+ 1 Wooden spoon
+ 1 Medium sauce pan
+ 1 Ladle
+ Knife (Note – this is my very favorite everyday knife! I literally use it every day, and the best part is that it’s high quality and super affordable.)
+ 1 Medium shallot or small yellow onion
+ 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
+ 2 Cups Arborio rice
+ ½ Cup dry white wine (This is important: choose a white wine that you enjoy the flavor of, but isn’t overly powerful! I really like Pinot Grigio here.)
+ about 6 Cups chicken stock
+ 2 Tbsp. butter (omit if dairy-free)
+ Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Finely mince the shallot. (If you’re improving your knife skills, this video is super helpful!)
Place chicken stock in a saucepan to simmer on low. The chicken stock will remain here throughout your cooking, so keep it warm but not boiling.
Over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it is simmering. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the arborio rice to coat with shallot and oil. Keep stirring until it smells toasty and buttery (not unlike popcorn!), you know it’s ready for the next step, about 2 minutes.
Add the white wine, and cook until it’s reduced by half (this means, half of the liquid has evaporated), about 2 minutes.
Next, add in about 3 or 4 ladles full of chicken stock to coat the rice, begin gently stirring.
This is important: you must keep stirring. Pour yourself a glass of wine (these are my picks for under $25! Or hey, you have that Pinot Grigio on hand too), and enjoy the process. If you stop for even a couple of minutes, the rice will stick to the bottom of your pot. And listen, it isn’t the end of the world if this happens but it’s kind of a risotto faux-pas, so try to avoid it if you can!
As the rice cooks, it will absorb the liquid. As the rice begins to “dry” or lose its liquid, ladle in the chicken stock one ladle at a time. Keep stirring. It’s important to only add a ladle at a time so as to not overwhelm the rice. It sounds a little high-maintenance, but it’s worth it! Keep stirring.
After about 25 minutes of constant stirring and ladling, you should notice the rice turn fluffy. Go ahead and taste it. Is the rice still a little crunchy? Keep ladling and stirring – I promise it will cook through! Does it need salt? Go ahead and add a ½ tsp at a time to taste.
Once the rice is cooked through and the salt is to taste: notice – is there a nice gooey center, but settled edges around the rice? That’s how you know your risotto is done. As Chef Brian would say, “The risotto should spoon onto the plate in a gentle puddle – not a scoop, and not a soup.”
Take the risotto off the heat (and turn off your burner with any remaining chicken stock), and stir in your butter (omit if dairy-free.) Add freshly cracked pepper to the top, and voila! You have the perfect foundational risotto.
The options are endless with risotto: add cheese, butternut squash, rosemary, thyme – anything you like! This recipe gives you the foundation, so have fun making it your own!
If you try the recipe, I’d love to know how it goes for you. Remember, it doesn’t need to be perfect – and if it doesn’t go well the first time, be encouraged: risotto is a practice. Cheers!