Risotto 101

Arancini, a.k.a. risotto balls....LUV IT!!! We had some leftover risotto from lobster's dinner last night so I "morphed" the ingredients and made this lovely dish. What could be better then a crunchy coating of warm comforting carbs hugging a big block of ooey-gooey cheese...NUM!! The best part is when you get a bite with cheese, it's just an explosion of the best flavor EVER in your mouth. I've always ordered these little guys at restaurants and was so excited to make them at home. Usually they're deep fried so I made a healthier version and baked them instead. Even though they were baked, these had a great crunch to them and were a nice contrast to the creamy risotto. An even better variation would be making these filled with mac and cheese...oh my gashee, my eyes just spun around in my head :)

**Close up of the ooey-gooey nummyness

Anyway, the inspiration for this post came from my friend who called me the other night asking for a risotto recipe. She has always enjoyed eating risotto at restaurants, but has been intimidated to re-create it at home because it seemed so difficult. I told her how easy it really is, but that it is very time consuming. She called me the next day with bad news - it had been a disaster. I couldn't understand why her risotto turned out so badly since it was a recipe I had made in the past, one that I enjoyed very much. Then, low and behold, lobster made risotto for the first time last night too and it all made sense.

Watching him battle the risotto I understood what my friend must have been going through. He kept asking me questions and I realized I had neglected to tell my friend about some of the details of the preparation....when do I add the broth? How do I know when it's done? Since it had been a while since I'd made risotto and I learned from watching it on TV, I never realized how difficult it might be for someone who has never seen it being made before. So I went back and re-read the recipe I had sent my friend, and realized it was not very user friendly for a first timer. (This is when I get to whip out my "first time blogger mistake" card) Sorry friend :) In fact, looking at several risotto recipes, I felt they were all pretty vague about the method involved when making risotto. Therefore, these are the Num Num's tips for making a risotto which will hopefully result in the restaurant dish we all know and love:

Now, before we get started repeat after me:
1) I will not get frustrated when my arm feels like falling off after an hour of stirring.
2) I will not get upset because the risotto is taking sooooo looooong. No pain equals no num num.
3) I will approach risotto with an open mind and not become an angerball!! >:(

Okay, now on to the actual directions:
1) If possible, use a pot that has a large surface area with high sides. This will make stirring the risotto easier.
2) When adding rice to the pan for the first time, stir and sauté coating the rice with all the oil in the pan until the outside of the rice becomes pretty translucent but the inside is still white, about a minute or two. You do this to prevent the rice from sticking together.
3) Make sure the broth you are adding to the risotto is at a simmer. You cannot use cold liquid because it will shock the rice and the outside will be flaky but the inside will stay hard.
4) When do I add the broth? This is a two step process. Always add the broth one ladle at a time. You will know when to add your next ladle of broth when you take your stirring spoon and starting from the top of the pan, insert the spoon into the risotto touching the bottom of the pan and drag a line to the opposite end of the pan. If your risotto starts to part like the red sea and you can see the bottom of the pan AND your line holds its shape for a couple seconds (the line will become very faint), THEN you can add another ladle of the broth. Do not wait until you can completely see a line in the bottom of your pan, that means too much liquid has been absorbed and your risotto will be too dry. Also, DO NOT add more broth when you can see the bottom of the pan but your line quickly disappears, then your risotto will become mushy and have a soup-like consistency. Don't worry, it's easier to understand once you're actually making it.
5) Stirring and cooking the risotto will ALWAYS take more time then what the recipe states, and you will more then likely need more broth then the amount the recipe calls for. I would give yourself a good hour to make risotto. I don't understand why recipes say you're only stirring for twenty minutes. Maybe that's how they sucker you into making one because if you really knew you'd be stirring a pot like a witch for an hour, no one would do it.
6) How do I know when it's done? Taste it!!! After about twenty minutes, taste the risotto. It will more then likely be chewy and leave yummy pasta starch stuck between your teeth. Therefore keep adding more broth, stirring, and tasting until it reaches your desired consistency - which will probably be another twenty minutes :)
7) Since you've been a good little chef and tasting your risotto every five minutes, when it's close to being done this is when you get to have fun and add all your fixins. Risotto is like a blank canvas so add whatever your heart desires. Seafood, cheese, veggies, cheese, fresh herbs...did I mention cheese? Just remember, you usually add all your ingredients in the last few minutes so they retain their texture and crunch.
8) Risotto is one of those dishes you prepare at the last minute, or should I say hour. You and your guests should always be waiting for the risotto to be finished. The risotto should never wait for guests because it will turn into a big gloppy mess if it sits for too long.
9) VOILA...you're done!!! Restaurant style risotto.
10) EAT, BE FAT, AND MERRY!! Aren't you proud of yourself. NuM NuM :)

Any kind of leftover risotto
Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 inch cubes of mozzarella cheese

1) Set up working station with three different bowls. In the first bowl place the flour. In the second bowl, whisk in a couple eggs. In the third bowl place italian seasoned breadcrumbs.
2) Take one tablespoon of risotto and put it in the palm of your hand. Place a cube of cheese in the middle and top with another tablespoon of risotto. Shape into a ball, roll in flour, then egg wash, then in breadcrumbs and place on oil lined baking sheet.
3) Bake in pre-heated 425F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with warm marinara sauce and enjoy.

Variation: Use mac and cheese as the filling and pray you don't bust an artery.


uclawomensgolf said...

Very thorough on the risotto tips! Maybe I will try to make this and really understand the parting of the Red Sea analogy. I just hope that I don't die of a heart attack from all the cheesy goodness going on. Btw, do you like gnocchi? I have the Fabio recipe from that cooking seminar I attended way back when. I never tried to recreate it at home, but when I tasted what he made at the restaurant it was yummy. Smooth, silky and most importantly cheesy. If you want it, I'll try to find it in my cluttered office and bring it Friday. Let me know. :)