I know, some days I sound like the biggest food snob.
I swear, risotto is one of those things that sounds ultra-fancy, you may pay a fortune for in a restaurant, but it’s just rice. I promise it’s easier than steamed rice; it’s as easy as making oatmeal. It’s nursery food.
If you love risotto, just try it once. Once you’ve figured it out, there are all sorts of possibilities with risotto. I just stuck with the basic lemon-parmesan version I made last time, but after I scooped some of it out it occurred to me I could tear some fresh spinach straight into it, and it would just wilt into its warmth. It was great.
Since I was busy prepping other things, I pulled a chicken from the freezer, stuck it in a bowl of warm water to thaw, and then roasted it, knowing it would be super with the risotto and the leftovers will feed the boys tomorrow in my absence. Another zero-effort dish, unless you count rubbing it with oil and sprinkling it with salt and pepper. The spent lemons I used in the risotto filled up the cavity nicely, too. (Hint: roasting chickens is a great way to keep cast iron skillets well-seasoned!)
So really, the idea behind risotto is that you stir it lots (in contrast with not disturbing it as it cooks) in order for the rice to release its starch into the dish, making it thick and creamy and oatmeal-like. Which is what makes it particularly difficult to screw up; you just keep on adding liquid, cook until it absorbs it all, and add more and keep on stirring until the rice is tender. If there’s too much liquid, it will eventually absorb it; if there’s not enough, add more. You warm the stock first so that it doesn’t cool the risotto and slow the cooking down every time you add some.
Lemon Parmesan Risotto
a drizzle of olive or canola oil and a small knob of butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
6(ish) cups chicken or vegetable stock, warmed up
1/2-1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
zest and juice of 1 lemon
another small knob of butter, if you like
In a medium-large pot, heat the oil and butter over medium-high heat and saute the onion until it’s soft and translucent. Add the rice and cook for a minute, just to coat the grains with oil.
If you like, add a splash of white wine and cook until it’s absorbed (some will cook off). Add about half a cup of stock and cook, stirring, until it’s absorbed. Continue adding stock a half cup to a cup at a time and cook, stirring (it doesn’t have to be constantly, just frequently) until it absorbs the liquid. When it’s all used up (it should take about half an hour) the grains should be soft. If they still have a crunchy core, just add a little more water or stock, if you have more.
When the rice is cooked and it’s nice and creamy, stir in the cheese, lemon zest and juice, and butter. Stir until the cheese melts. (If you like, stir in a handful of chopped fresh spinach, parsley or basil too, and it will wilt into the risotto.)
Serves about 6.