Risotto is a class of Italian dishes of rice cooked in broth to a creamy consistency.
The broth may be meat-based, fish-based, or vegetable-based; many kinds include Parmesan cheese, butter, and onion. It is one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy. Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy but still with some resistance or bite: al dente, and with separate grains.
The traditional texture is fairly fluid, or all’onda (“wavy, or flowing in waves”). It is served on flat dishes and it should easily spread out but not have excess watery liquid around the perimeter. It must be eaten at once as it continues to cook in its own heat and can become too dry with the grains too soft.
“How rice arrived in Italy is a controversial issue,” say Anna Maria Volpi, Culinary teacher and author of the FANTASTIC Italian food blog, Anna Maria’s Open Kitchen:
“It is known that the Arabs brought rice to Sicily and Spain. They probably got it from India and extended its use through the territory under their control. Rice was brought into the Po Valley in the fourteenth century—probably from Spain—and found the perfect environment and climate: flat lands, abundance of water, and humidity. Rice cultivation became intensive in the area for the centuries that followed, so much so that rice became a staple in that part of Italy.”
Just a note – many folks think that risotto is a hoity-toity dish, reserved for fancy restaurants and accomplished chefs.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Risotto is a very simple dish who’s most important ingredient is patience…patience and a big spoon. You’re going to to stirring constantly, so make sure that everything else is prepared for the meal in advance.
Essentially, you’re toasting the rice, which, just like when toasting nuts or grains, produces a deep, rich, nutty aroma and flavor. Add a pinch of salt and maybe a little minced shallot (which gives a mild onion/garlic flavor) and you have something truly exceptional.
Nutty and slightly meaty, with a smooth, creamy texture, small porcini mushrooms are most appreciated by gourmets, they’re most famously found in Italy but they’re also in Europe, North America, and other parts of the world like New Zealand and South Africa. The name porcini means “piglets” in Italian.
Risotto ai Funghi Porcini Con il Pollo
(Risotto with porcini mushrooms and chicken)
3 perfect grilled chicken breasts (see below), in rough chunks
1 lb fresh porcini mushrooms, sliced and roasted
1 large Shallot, finely sliced
2 stalks of celery, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil + 1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 quart of roasted chicken stock, hot
1/8 cup (each) Italian parsley and fresh basil, minced
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Slice and roast mushrooms. (Recipe here – Sub buttons with porcini)
I picked this tip up back in my teens, working in a Mexican restaurant: always lightly brown your rice in a little olive oil, before you add water and boil it.
Brown the rice in a medium high pan in just a little oil. Toss constantly to keep from burning.
Meanwhile, slice the shallot finely and sauté it, and celery, in three tablespoons of oil. When it’s lightly browned remove it to a plate with a slotted spoon and stir the rice into the drippings in the pan. Sauté the rice for 10-15 minutes, until it becomes somewhat translucent, stirring constantly so it won’t stick and burn.
Return the shallots to the pan, then stir in a first ladle of stock. Add the mushrooms and their liquid to the rice, stir until almost all of the liquid is gone. Continue adding stock a ladle at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed.
About five minutes before the rice is done, check seasoning. As soon as the rice is al dente, turn off the heat, stir in the butter, half the cheese, a little bit of ground pepper, the parsley and basil, and cover the risotto for two minutes.
Slice the grilled chicken, and place over each bowl of risotto.
Serve with the remaining grated cheese, sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs.
Perfect Grilled Chicken Breasts (it’s easier than you think!)
To grill the chicken, pound the breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap (I use a large zip bag because they don’t tear as easily), flattening to an even thickness. ¾ of an inch is about right.
Soak breasts in a salt and sugar brine for 30 minutes.Clean and oil your grill grates, and grill over a two zone fire, with the hot side at medium heat (around 400F.)
Brown the chicken on both side, to an internal temp of 150F, then let rest 10 minutes. Hold-over cooking will bring the temp up into the safety zone. (What does the USDA know about the needs of a man’s soul?)
If you love this recipe, please share it! Also, you can open the “print friendly” version of this recipe, by clicking here. Enjoy! ~ Chef P