The world of food is filled with misconceptions. And I love to do my best to clarify them.
Today’s clarification: Risotto.
Creamy, rich, and delicious, risotto has a reputation for being a laborious and challenging dish to prepare. I disagree. Risotto is just Italian rice. We know how to make rice, right? If not – which is fine, many people actually do not know how to handle this household staple – you should probably start there. Here’s a good resource to help you out.
Once you have basic rice down, risotto is only slightly more complex. But certainly not out of your capabilities. Here are three things you need to know for a successful pot of risotto.
- You need a specific kind of rice. A high starch, short-grain rice is ideal for absorbing liquid and producing a creamy, not mushy, texture. The most common risotto rice is called Arborio. Pick some up in the bulk section of your local co-op.
- Use a heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, to prevent sticking or, worst-case scenario – burning.
- Make sure your broth is hot and ready to go.
Wild Leek Risotto
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 bunch ramps/wild leeks or 1-2 leeks
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 1 cup white wine (optional)
- 5 1/2 cups broth
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
Though traditionally made with onions, spring is a great time to substitute wild leeks, also known as ramps. You can forage your own or find them from a local farmer. But they won’t last long. If you miss out on the short season of ramps, feel free to use traditional leeks, but omit the greens, which are not very edible.
Prep your wild leeks with a good wash. Then separate the tops from the bottoms.
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in your heavy-bottomed pot. Add in the chopped part of the ramps and the garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, until softened, then add in the rice. Cook another 3 minutes, stirring the rice around the pot to prevent sticking.
If using the wine, go ahead and add it now and let it cook off for a couple of minutes. If not using the wine, just go ahead with the broth.
A ladle full at a time, add the broth to the pot, stirring and waiting until absorbed by the rice before adding the next ladle. Repeat this stirring and broth adding process until the rice is tender and no longer absorbs the broth, about 20 minutes. Stop occasionally to taste for doneness. Rice should be al dente or with a slight bite to it. If you have a friend/partner/child, this might be a good process for them. It’s slightly time-consuming but certainly not challenging.
Now remove the rice from the burner and add sliced ramp leaves, Parmesan, parsley, lemon zest and juice, and the remaining tablespoon of butter. Stir everything together to combine.
You’ll want to serve the risotto relatively soon after cooking. If it sits too long, it will continue to cook and solidify. If reheating, add a little broth or water to thin out again. If you find yourself with way too much risotto, consider making Arancini Italian rice balls.