Risotto, simple and easily embellished
April 4, 2011

What do you do when beloved company shows up just as you’re getting ready to go to a pirate party? The answer is not to fret and worry Matey, nor is it to pick up the daily special at the felafel joint around the corner (because, obviously, that’s Tuesday’s answer). No, enjoy the party and save your shekels, the answer is very likely sitting patiently in your very own fridge and cupboards, modestly waiting to make you shine.

Growing up, my Mum made risotto all the time. Of course this was long before we knew it as a platform for exotic seafood and truffle oil. I’m not sure the sun-dried tomato had even made it’s runway debut yet. Certainly the pine nut was not even a twinkle in our North American eye. I don’t think Mum saw it as a particularly glamorous or romantic meal at all, just a nourishing, delicious and easy weeknight meal. When Ivy and her baby friends were ready to start gumming at solid food it was risotto we mums got together and made huge batches of, very simply with some squash purée, to share and freeze. Easy, but yes, you must stand still and stir. Which is exactly why it was and is a great meal to prepare while listening to to As It Happens, catching up on the day with Mum, or to make for beloved company, because you can converse and stir and be serene all at the same time.

To make simple and easily embellished risotto:

Simple part:

Heat 6 cups of stock, in pot on a back burner.
Finely dice 1 large onion and add it to about 2 1/2 tbsp butter or olive oil in your biggest skillet over medium-high heat.
When the onion is soft, browning a bit even, stir in 2 cups of arborio rice. Push this around making sure that all the rice is coated and glistening, and here you might add some saffron (2tsp-ish), and a large grind of black pepper.
Many recipes will tell you to squander some perfectly good white wine here. I keep it in the glass myself, especially since I’m cooking for a small child.
If you wish to add any tomato paste, diced tomatoes or other purees, now’s the time.
Now begin to ladle in some hot stock, stirring all the while.
You can be quite liberal at first, adding several ladlefulls at a time, but as the rice gets closer to done ladle in less more often.
Stir, taste, repeat. The heat should be quite high, the pot bubbling away, and the whole enterprise shouldn’t take longer than twenty or twenty-five minutes.

Embellishments (aka. a good way to use leftovers):

Many many many things can be sautéed separately and piled on at the end. Like some shrimp and garlic for example. Or some asparagus and special mushrooms. Try to think about what you absolutely know goes together (like the things you had for supper last night). Or fold in any fresh herbs or chopped spinach or steamed veg just before this last bit:

When the rice is done and the company seated, add 1/4 – 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Some people claim that you can prepare risotto without cheese. They are silly and cannot be trusted. Also add a last 1/2 cup or so of stock. Risotto should want to spread out on the plate once served. It should not be suitable for repairing furniture.

Serve with a simple tossed salad and more Parm for sprinkling. Tuck your feet up and enjoy. Arr.

yo-ho-ho!

with our beloved Papa

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