Monday, 21 March 2011

Risotto: This Much I Know

I regularly make risotto. Last week was a bacon and butternut squash risotto. Here’s how I typically go about it.

1. Use a good stock. I make stock from chicken carcasses, with onion and carrot (freezing what I don’t use within a couple of days). Heat stock before adding it to rice.
2. Fry chopped onion, garlic and chunks of cooking bacon in olive oil/butter in a risotto/paella dish (or a large heavy-bottomed frying pan).
3. Use medium-grained risotto rice such as Arborio, which will retain a central chewiness, and not a grain that will turn your dish into rice pudding. The cooking method abrades starch from the rice surface which thickens the cooking liquid.
4. After the onion and bacon has been cooking for around 5 mins, add rice to the pan (and any dried herbs such as chopped thyme). I use almost a mugful for a very generously-sized family meal, and stir around (no longer than a minute) before starting to add liquid. I sometimes add a good splash of wine (if I have a glass on the go) to cook down before adding the heated stock.
5. Stir the rice as often as you can, to abrade the grain's surface, adding hot stock a little at a time (not all at once) so that more liquid evaporates and flavours concentrate.
6. Meanwhile, small cubes of buttercup squash are roasting with some butter (about 30 mins in a moderate oven), in a roasting dish covered by foil. Mix squash and any juices into risotto as rice is nearly finished cooking (I make mushroom risotto in a similar way – adding oven-cooked mushrooms and their juices).
7. Finally, stir in some butter toward the end of cooking. It enhances the risotto’s silky-creamy texture. Salt and pepper to your taste.
8. Have freshly-grated parmesan to hand. Some can be stirred into the risotto just before serving and more can be grated over the dish at the table.
9. A crisp salad and some crusty bread usually goes well.
10. That’s about as much as I know about risotto.

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