Thursday, January 27, 2011

Risotto and Homemade Stock

Every food writer and cookbook will tell you you should make your own chicken broth and/or similar stocks. They tell you it's a cinch to make, it tastes vastly superior to the store bought stuff, and it is very economical to do. You simply save all bones, roast carcasses, etc. in Ziploc bags in the freezer and then one day when you have time to putter in the kitchen, you put them in a pot, add onion, celery, carrot, black peppercorns and a good tablespoon of salt, cover it with water and completely cook the essence out of it all. I am pretty good about putting meaty bones in bags in the freezer, but in all honesty, I buy my fair share of Swanson's-style broth, too. I just don't always think far enough ahead to have the stock made in time before I need to use it. The other day, I decided I wanted to make risotto. I decided this early enough in the day, and on a day when I was home, and since all those bags of bones were falling out of the freezer onto the floor every other time we opened the door, and the cupboards (and freezer) were bare of any ready-made broth, I made homemade broth. I filled my pressure cooker with frozen bones and stuff, cooked it all 20 minutes at high pressure, left it to cool, and then strained the broth off. It was incredibly delicious, and the remaining bones and stuff made an old farm dog very happy. Broth actually IS a cinch to make, and I froze half of what I made, ready and waiting for the next time I want to make risotto.

Separate from the homemade broth issue, there is lots of grumbling about the actual act of making risotto. Oh sure, it's fantastic and all that, the grumblers say, but you have to stand there and stir it for 20 minutes, and who has the time? There is a pressure cooker recipe, I have made it and I admit, it's good, but honestly, I LIKE stirring the risotto for those twenty minutes. I like to clear the decks (OK, no one expect me to do ANYTHING for the next twenty minutes -I'm making risotto!) and simply focus on doing one thing: stirring. OK, two things, if I drink a glass of the wine while I'm standing there stirring. It is a simple yet extravagant dish, and probably one of my favorite things to eat. With broiled lamb chops and a green vegetable (we had frozen broccoli from last summer) or salad, it is hard to beat. Except maybe as leftovers, either simply reheated, or mixed with a beaten egg and Italian bread crumbs, then formed into little risotto cakes and fried in olive oil.


2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil

1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
5-6 mushrooms, chopped (optional)

Saute a few minutes. Add:
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
Cook, stirring for a few minutes then add:
1/2-1 c. white wine (optional) If you open a bottle of wine for this, you can drink a glass while you're doing all that stirring. And if you freeze the last 1/2-1 cup of wine in the bottle, you will be ready for the next time you want to make risotto and don't have a bottle of white wine at hand.

Add, 1/2 - 1 c. at a time, 1 quart hot stock (preferably homemade) over twenty minutes, stirring constantly while risotto simmers.

When rice is done (al dente) stir in:
1/3 c. shredded or grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
pinch white pepper
salt to taste (AFTER adding the Parmesan)
Cover with a lid, remove from heat, and let set a few minutes before serving.

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