Too many cooks shy away from risotto, an Italian rice dish, because they think it is hard to make, and many think of it as a hearty dish suitable only for cold winter nights. Not true!
Risotto is creamy and rich without being heavy. It can showcase a rainbow of ingredients including delicate spring produce, shellfish and even fruit. Showered with fresh herbs such as chives and christened with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese it makes for a refreshing spring dinner.
And, contrary to what some think, making risotto is easy and straightforward once you know the basics. All it takes is a little loving care and a touch of patience.
Here are my secrets to making the perfect risotto:
Start with a rich stock or broth. Many recipes call for water, but that’s a missed opportunity for enhancing the risotto’s flavors. Keep the liquid simmering hot on the stove while preparing the dish. This way everything stays hot as the dish is prepared.
Sauté vegetables and prepare shellfish, fish or meats beforehand, preferably in the same pan as for making the risotto, so that they lend all their flavors to the dish and so that each ingredient is cooked to perfection.
Add the liquid in small quantities and wait till it is mostly absorbed before adding the next dose. This way the rice fully absorbs the liquid. Risotto needn’t be stirred continuously, but stirring is important because when the grains of rice rub against each other they contribute to the starch in the dish.
Make sure to use Arborio or Carnaroli rice. These high starch, short grain rice varieties can absorb liquids and release starch more effectively than long grain rice varieties and insure the creaminess of the risotto.
Cook the rice until just al dente like pasta, with some of the liquid still in the pan, as the rice will continue to absorb liquid after removing from the heat. At the end add the other ingredients and cheese.
My dish for spring risotto with clams uses scallions and grape tomatoes for colors that are bright and vivid. The bite of the scallions and the sweetness of the tomatoes pair well with the briny nature of the littleneck clams.
Clam and Scallion Risotto
(serves four people)
4 Tbs Kerry Gold unsalted butter
4 Tbs olive oil
4 cups chicken broth or clam juice
1 ½ cup dry white wine
3 bunches of scallions
3 cloves garlic
3 dozen little neck clams (rinsed and drained)
2 cups Arborio rice
1 pint cherry tomatoes, broiled for 5 minutes
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ cup Parmesan cheese
In a medium saucepan bring chicken broth or clam juice to a simmer.
Coat the cherry tomatoes in olive oil and broil for 5 minutes. Set aside.
Peel and chop the shallots. Chop the white parts of the scallions including some of the green. Reserve 1/2 cup of the scallions as well as 1 incb pieces of their greens. Chop the garlic. Set all aside.
In a shallow heavy skillet, melt the butter and sauté the shallots, scallions and garlic for 5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the olive oil and when heated, add the rice, stirring to coat. Add ½ cup of the wine and cook it off.
In a saucepan heat 1 cup of the wine till boiling. Add the clams. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes until the clams open. Set aside.
Begin adding the broth/juice ½ cup at a time to the rice, stirring frequently, until each addition is absorbed. Continue in this way for 20-25 minutes until the rice is tender to the bite.
Add the sautéed ingredients, the tomatoes, the reserved scallions, ½ cup of the scallion greens and the tomatoes. Cook for 3 minutes. Then add the parmesan cheese and the clams, stirring all, and adding salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in individual bowls.
This is my contribution to edition #430 of Weekend Herb Blogging, an event started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, now organized by Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once and Brii of briggishome and hosted this week by Simona at briciole.