Risotto holds a special place in my heart, not just because it is delicious, but because my brother taught me how to make it. My brother, 2 years younger than me, spends his days and nights in the challenging and exhausting, yet exciting and creative position as head chef at a restaurant. I could not be more proud of him for finding a job that is also his passion. Food, and love of it, runs deep in our Italian and Irish family, and he’s turned this into something he gets paid to do.
He’s usually working when the family is eating dinner, and if he’s not, he’d prefer to go out or eat someone else’s cooking. Who can blame him after working in a kitchen all week? But since the rest of the family enjoys cooking also, we’ll sometimes all prepare a meal together, with his expert tips and suggestions. One night at my parent’s house a couple years ago, he and I made risotto together I watched him make risotto. I had never made it before and was excited to learn how, especially from him. It’s energy consuming but definitely worth it for the delicious outcome. My brother taught me to stay on top of the pan, just the right moments to add the wine and then the butter, and the difference between when the boil is simmering and “smiling.”
Since then, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made risotto, probably because I like to multitask and all the attention it takes doesn’t allow me to. Two of those times were actually with the other gringo of dosgringos, and one of those two times we had to make do with what we could find at the only store open in Madrid on a Sunday night, which meant using paella rice. Hey, when in Rome, right?
This week counted as the only time I’ve made risotto for myself. I had a little bit of risotto rice left, white wine, and some time. Since I like to get creative in the kitchen, rarely following a recipe, one of the things I love best about risotto is that you can put whatever you want in it. Risotto rice (Arborio rice), onions, butter, and white wine are the main ingredients and the rest is completely open. This time I included shrimp, asparagus, and mushrooms. The risotto gets very creamy on its own, but I also added smoked Gouda, because I prefer to live life by the motto “there’s always room for cheese.”
In the light of not following recipes, here is a risotto “guide” to serve about 4 people:
- Bring 3-4 C chicken broth to a boil
- In a pan sauté chopped onions and garlic in olive oil
- Add whatever other “toppings” you want (meat, veggies, etc.) and season with salt and pepper
- Once veggies are soft, add 1 C of rice, stirring so it doesn’t burn but letting it toast a little
- Add about ½ C of white wine and let it evaporate (You add this now so the alcohol has time to cook off)
- Slowly add a ladle of chicken broth, stirring until it is evaporated. Repeat this step until the rice is soft
- Stir in 1 t or so of butter
- Remove from heat and serve hot