Risotto

All About Risotto
Beef Risotto     
Risotto Alla Milanese
Risotto Alla Milanese with Bay Scallops
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto



All About Risotto
Riso simply means rice.  Risotto relates to the technique used to cook rice; cooked in a broth until creamy. The diversity of flavors and vast optional accompaniments are what makes risotto so unique.

Originally Northern Italian, Risotto is now served throughout all regions of Italy.  The dish is extremely versatile.  Started as a first course, now it's often served as a side dish with hardy main meals like Osso Bucco, or as a standalone main course.  Even the simplest recipe “Parmigiana Risotto” is delicious.  Risotto is also made with an extensive range of substantial additions with their own textures and flavors. 

Although Americans are most familiar with Arborio rice, there are other varieties of Italian rice.  Italians choose specific rice for their preferred characteristics.  Arborio is noted for its firm texture.  Carnaroli rice cooks a little softer while Vialone Nano rice is smaller and cooks creamier.

Core ingredients for Risotto are mostly universal, chopped onions, chicken broth, wine, butter, and grated Parmigiana cheese.  Regional specialties are added to Risotto and extend from seafood, wild mushrooms, chicken livers, asparagus, local sausage varieties, Bolognese meat sauce, butternut squash, asparagus, beef steak, short ribs, and many more.  Flavors can also be enhanced with more exotic ingredients like truffles and saffron.

Basic Preparation:  Broth and water are brought to a low simmer in a "supply" pot.  Separately, butter is added to a large “flavor pot”.  Finely chopped onion is sautéed until just translucent to secrete their flavor (can substituted with classic Battuta, finely chopped onion, garlic, and carrot).  Raw rice is sautéed for a few minutes until their edges (starch) are translucent.  This gives rice a nutty flavor and thought to produce a firmer and dryer risotto.

If using wine, it’s stirred into rice and cooked until dissolved.  Diluted broth is added a little at a time and absorbed by the rice.
Important:  Rice is ready when al dente, tender on the outside, chewy on the inside, and liquid evaporated.  All the broth mixture might not be needed.  Absorption is dependent on variables including freshness of the rice.

Risotto can be finished with more butter, Parmigiana cheese, and featured ingredients.           
Proportions of rice to liquid.  Based on 2 cups of Arborio rice, 32-ounce box of low salt chicken broth (4 cups) diluted with 3 cups water balances intensity. 

Adding Featured Ingredients:  There are at least three ways to add featured ingredients with Risotto (i.e. shrimp in “Shrimp Risotto”, beef in “Beef Risotto”, squash in “Butternut Squash Risotto”). 
  • Braised with Rice; beef and pork can be browned, combined and oven braised with rice and broth. This helps tenderize the meat.    
  • Precooked and Combined with Finished Rice: Delicate seafood like shrimp can be sautéed in the flavor pot until almost cooked through then reserved.  Root vegetables or squash can be oven baked and caramelized first.  All those ingredients can be reheated and folded into the finished hot rice just before serving.
  • Topped.  Short ribs are braised until meat falls off the bone; sausages sautéed until cooked through; Bouillabaisse sauce assembled and simmered ready.  Rice is placed in a ring mold and inverted.  Topping is generously added to the mold’s crater and served.    
You will easily be hooked on risotto.  It becomes easy to assemble.  Variations of ingredients and flavors that can be incorporated will feed into your creative cooking spirit, encouraging you to try more.


    
Beef Risotto  
Although I traditionally use robust cuts of beef like brisket or short ribs, I now use thin sliced top of round beef.  It’s convenient to trim into strips, is economical, and quick cooks tender. 

Italians use this cut to make Braciola.  South Americans use it for their stuffed and rolled version.  Mexicans for Fajita; Americans for simple cheese steak sandwiches.  It’s also ideal for Mongolian beef. 

After marinating with olive oil, sage, rosemary, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper the beef is sautéed, then simmered stove top with the Arborio rice and broth. 

The dish is finished with butter and parmigiana cheese to taste and garnished with fresh chopped parsley. 
Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 pounds thin sliced top of round beef, brisket, shaved beef, etc.
Marinade 
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dry
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary needles or 1 teaspoon dry
  • 3 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • Pinch Kosher salt
  • Few grinds black pepper
Cooking Pot
  • 4 plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1-quart (4 cups) chicken broth plus 1 can (14.5 oz.)
  • 1 cup water if needed
  • ¾ to 1 cup grated or shredded parmigiana cheese
  • Chopped Italian parsley for garnish
     * sometimes referred to as "Milanesa” cut

Trim  meat into bite size strips.  If using brisket, thin slice perpendicular to grains first. 
   
Mix all marinade ingredients a bowl and coat all beef pieces and sides.  Store in the refrigerator for several hours, preferably overnight. 

When ready to cook, pour chicken broth in a pot.  Bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, using surgical gloves spread beef in the bottom of a sauté pan.  Quick sear beef on all sides by tossing for 2 or 3 minutes.  Remove beef to a bowl.

Lower heat to medium.  Add the 4 tablespoons of butter.  When melted, add the Arborio rice.  Stir until their edges become translucent. 
      
Stir in a about a third of the simmering broth and cover.  Occasionally lift cover and stir.  When most of that broth is absorbed, stir in beef and all juices accumulated in the bowl.  Replenish with additional broth as needed and stir. 

When rice is approaching al dente, stir in about ½ cup parmigiana and remaining 2 tablespoons butter.  If more broth is needed but depleted, substitute with water.  Finish with more parmigiana to taste and test for seasoning. 

Garnish with chopped parsley.



Risotto Alla Milanese...
An exceptional side dish often served with Osso Buco and other braised meats.  Here it is with my "Rabe-Stuffed Pork Osso Buco Style"  and "Oven Roasted Asparagus"
Preparation begins with a pot of broth that is diluted with water, heated and kept warm next to the risotto cooking pot.  Raw rice, usually Arborio in the U.S. because of availability, is sautéed in a soffritto of minced onion and fat, butter and/or olive oil, until the rice starts to become transparent. 

Wine is added until absorbed by the rice  The heated broth is then added in increments until it also is absorbed and the rice is cooked al dente, slightly chewy like properly cooked pasta and have a creamy texture.  The dish is finished with butter for additional creaminess and flavored with grated parmigiana cheese. 

See note below ingredients for a Gluten Free version*
Ingredients:
  • 4 cups chicken broth, if using store broth, one large 32 oz. box*
  • 3 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons butter separated, 4T and 2T
  • 1 medium onion minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup quality and dense grated parmigiana cheese (more if a lighter, less dense parmigiana). 
*Use gluten free chicken broth for a gluten free version.


Heat broth and water to a light boil on a burner next to the actual cooking pot.  Reduce heat to low.      

Melt 4 oz. of the butter over medium heat in a pot large enough to conveniently hold all ingredients while stirring.  Add minced onion.  Stir with a spatula until the onion is translucent, being careful not to brown.  Add the rice and stir until their edges become transparent. 

Add the wine and stir until the rice absorbs all of it.  Add about half of the diluted broth, stirring occasionally.  Replenish broth a ladle at a time as all the liquid is absorbed, when dry under the rice.  Rice should be cooked al dente, slightly chewy in their centers, somewhere between 10 and less than 15 minutes.  Try not to overcook.  Quickly stir in the 2 tablespoons of butter and the parmigiana cheese.  Risotto will be creamy.  Serve immediately.

Note:  If using low sodium broth and unsalted butter, you can add about 1/4 teaspoon or salt with the minced onion or you can check for seasoning when completed.             
       

              
Risotto Alla Milanese with Bay Scallops
image-756140-IMG_5941_(2).jpg
Bay Scallops are sautéed in butter and folded into "Risotto Alla Milanese". 

Bay Scallops are readily available frozen in grocery stores.  When defrosted, they release lots of natural juices that need to be captured and added to risotto during cooking.   
    
Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 pounds Bay Scallops
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Recipe for "Risotto Alla Milanese", above
  • Chopped flat Italian parsley
Defrost scallops in a strainer over a bowl.   Reserve all their natural juices. Rapidly sauté scallops in butter.  Set aside.

Prepare Risotto Alla Milanese per recipe above.  Add saved scallop juices along with first half of diluted chicken broth.  

When rice is just about ready, fold in scallops.  Serve garnished with chopped parsley. 




Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
The secret to this inviting side dish is in roasting the butternut squash.  Squash is peeled and seeded, cut into smaller ½ inch cubes, coated with olive oil, garlic, and seasoning.  They are spread single layer onto a sided cookie sheet and placed in oven preheated to 475° with direct heat.  If preferred, you can use butter, but I find olive oil more reliable to control.

Butternut squash cubes are roasted and occasionally tossed until their centers are just cooked through while sides are lightly charred. 

Squash is gently folded into with finished risotto.         
Ingredients:
  • 1 medium butternut squash about 2 ½ pounds
Squash seasoning
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
  • 1 teaspoon fresh Thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
Diluted broth
  • 32 oz. box reduced salt chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
Risotto
  • 4 additional tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion minced
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup quality grated parmigiana cheese 
*Use gluten free chicken broth for a gluten free version.
Butternut squash, preheat oven to 475° direct heat, not convection.   Peel and seed squash.  Cut into roughly ½ inch cubes; place in a bowl.  Remove rough tip from garlic.  Cut cloves with skin in half lengthwise.  Add to bowl along with olive oil, sage, thyme, Kosher salt, and ground pepper.  Toss ingredients and place a single layer in a cookie sheet with sides.  Place just above center of the oven.  The intent is to slightly char the squash to bring out its natural sweetness.  Scrape and flip after about 15 minutes and about every 10 minutes until surfaces are lightly charred and squash is just cooked through. 

Meanwhile, heat broth and water to a simmer next to risotto cooking pot.  Reduce heat to low.   

When squash is ready remove tray.  Discard garlic and skins.  Drain squash with a slotted spatula and place cubes in a warmed bowl.                       
Melt 4 oz. of the butter over medium heat in a pot large enough to conveniently hold all ingredients.  Add minced onion.  Stir with a spatula until the onion is translucent, being careful not to brown.  Add the rice and stir until their edges become translucent. 

Add the wine and stir until the rice absorbs all of it.  Add about half of the diluted broth, stirring occasionally.  Replenish broth a ladle at a time as all the liquid is absorbed, dry under the rice.  Rice should be cooked al dente, slightly chewy in their centers, somewhere between 10 and less than 15 minutes.  Try not to overcook. 

Quickly stir in the 2 tablespoons of butter and the parmigiana cheese.  Risotto will be creamy.  Test for seasoning.  Add salt if needed

Gently fold squash cubes into the risotto and place in a serving bowl.  Please see picture above.
     
Note:  If using low sodium broth and unsalted butter, you can add about 1/4 teaspoon of salt with the minced onion or check for seasoning when completed.