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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Try this dish for a taste of northern Italy

 •  Risotto has become a staple in American restaurants

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Here we share a master recipe for risotto, which lends itself to many variations. You can add a cup or so of cooked meats, sauteed mushrooms, steamed or grilled vegetables, or use different cheeses.

Risotto 101

  • 5 1/2 cups broth*
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/3 cup finely minced onion
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup good-quality white wine
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Bring the broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan on top of the stove. Have a ladle ready nearby.

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy, 4-quart casserole (dutch oven, heavy-bottomed pot) over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until it begins to soften, being careful not to brown it.

Stir in the rice using a wooden spoon; toss for about 1 minute, until rice is coated and very lightly toasted. Pour in wine and cook, stirring often, until wine is absorbed.

Ladle 1 cup simmering broth into the rice and cook, stirring often. When liquid is almost absorbed, add another 1/2 cup. Continue for 18 minutes, adding broth as needed. (You may not need all the broth.)

Look and taste: The rice grains should be surrounded by a thickened liquid. The rice should be tender but still firm.

To finish, stir in 1/4 cup broth. Turn off head and stir in butter and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Serve immediately.

Sergio's cheese and pine nut or walnut risotto: Toast 2-4 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts a few seconds in a dry saucepan over medium-high heat, just until the aroma is released. Do not allow to burn. Set aside. In a small saucepan, place 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese and 1/2 cup of crumbled gorgonzola cheese. Set aside and have ready. As the risotto gets close to done, gently melt cheese over low heat and stir to combine. Stir cheese into risotto just before adding butter and Parmigiano. Pour into wide, shallow plate or plates and sprinkle with nuts. May additionally be garnished with steamed or grilled asparagus. Serve immediately.

About broth: My favorite technique is to make a quick stock with 3 or 4 bone-in chicken breasts, then use the poached meat and the resulting light broth in the risotto. Cover these with 6-8 cups water and throw in a couple of peppercorns, half a bay leaf, a few knobs of carrot, a little bit of coarsely chopped onion or leek, perhaps some herbs de Provence. Bring to a boil, skim and simmer for half an hour, until the chicken is poached through.

Remove chicken pieces, debone and coarsely chop chicken and reserve. Strain broth and place in saucepan and bring to simmer. Make risotto using this broth, add chicken to risotto right at the end, with the butter and Parmigiano Reggiano.

Leftovers: Most risotto recipes make a hefty amount — six or seven cups of cooked risotto — so you may have leftovers. These cannot be reheated without turning gummy, but the Italians have good uses for cooked, chilled risotto. Here are two techniques they use.

Risotto cakes (Risotto al salto)

Form chilled, leftover risotto into patty-shaped cakes with your hands, using about 1/2 cup for each cake. Compress the cakes as you form them to reduce the possibility that they will fall apart.

Over medium-high heat, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of oil or butter in a 10-inch skillet, preferably with a nonstick surface. Add the cakes, as many as will fit in the skillet without touching one another, and cook 10 minutes a side, until golden brown.

Serve immediately with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and grated Parmigiano.

— From "Risotto Risotti," by Judith Barrett (Macmillan, 1996).

Risotto Croquettes, or Supplí

Heat a quart or 2 of oil in deep fryer or heavy saucepan to 375 degrees.

Place 1 cup flour, 2 beaten eggs and 2 cups unseasoned bread crumbs each in a separate shallow dish.

Form 2 tablespoons of chilled, leftover risotto into patties, balls or logs; roll in flour, dip into egg and then into bread crumbs. Be sure shapes are completely coated. Repeat with remaining risotto.

Fry the croquettes in hot oil 3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

— From "Risotto," by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman (Scribner's, 1987).