A couple of years back, I wrote about my first experience making risotto and how scary it had been. I now make it quite often as a “quick” dish for last minute guests. Such thing happened last Friday, when my friend Segolène stopped by for lunch at the very last minute (which I love). I had just come back from the Farmers’ Market with 3 HUGE prawns that were begging for a soft and creamy bed of rice. Making such dishes (risotto, pasta, meatballs…) always reminds me of my Italian nana Anna. She passed when I was still young, but I loved her dearly and I have great memories of her food…
The only thing to really worry about when making risotto (besides the quality of your ingredients of course) is the cooking time. Italians swear by al dente, but I do not like my rice to be crunchy… Even worse is when the risotto looks like a messy soup (just watch any episode of Hell’s Kitchen with Ramsey and you’ll see what I mean). So, as I mentioned to you before, I follow THE golden rule: STAYING ON TOP OF ONE’S PAN! Never leave the stove, not even for a minute (30 seconds may be OK :0)! Then after twenty minutes, start tasting the rice regularly. At 25 minutes on low heat, that’s when mine is usually perfect. Still al dente but cooked all the way through. Not at all crunchy but not too soft either. Creamy but not swimming in a messy glue. One should be able to feel each single grain on one’s tongue. It should just melt away in your mouth. Perfection! Absolute perfection. To this, add the shrimp lightly seared in olive oil and a few sautés mushrooms and you become an instant hero in your guests’ eyes :0) Just kidding!
For 4 people:
- In a saucepan, sauté 1 chopped onion in 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 of olive oil. Stir for about 2 minutes. The onion becomes translucent
- Add 250g of round Italian rice (or risotto rice) and stir on low heat for about 2 minutes. Everyone tells you that it must turn translucent, it was not the case here…
- Add 1 small glass of dry white wine and stir well (I use Graves or Pessac Léognan)
- When the rice has absorbed all the wine, start adding hot broth one ladle at a time. I used chicken broth this time. The whole idea is to add a ladle after another gradually as the rice absorbs the broth (I actually put two at a time all the way to minute 18). You will keep stirring almost constantly for the next 20 to 25 minutes on low to medium heat
- Towards the 20th minute, add a big teaspoon of minced garlic, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning and/or cooking time. In the meantime, you will have butterflied and sauté your prawns in olive oil.
- Just before serving, add 300g of mushrooms that you will have browned separately with shallots and deglazed with a splash of Madeira. Also add the shrimp and whatever fresh green herb you have laying around (parsley, chives, sage…)
As I mentioned in my older post, what’s great about risotto is that as long as you follow steps 1 to 5 above to the letter, you can’t really mess it up. The versatility of the dish is also legendary. Depending on the kind of stock you use, the combinations are simply limitless: asparagus, mushrooms, lobster, duck confit… For 30 minutes of work in the kitchen, it is unbeatable!
Note: Please do not use instant rice for risotto. I know we’re all busy, but 30 minutes of your time is not the end of the world. Great dishes often take time :0) Just shave the half hour off your gym time :0) I know I shave everything off my workout time, even the time I need to go to the pastry shop :0) Priorities people!
Regarding the pictures of nana Anna in this post: The second one is with her family just a few years after they immigrated to France (she’s on the right above her dad). The third one is with my mom on her right (keep in mind mom is now 83). The fourth one is with baby me. The last one is the last picture we have of nana Anna… (we called her Mémère by the way, which to us meant “sweet mother”)
I love my great grand mother’s face/expression on that family picture. She looked so kind. Life had been quite hard on her… I wish I’d known her too! Her name was Maria.