I recently became obsessed with Hell’s Kitchen after having never watched it before. I find the more stressed I am in life, the more mindless I need my television to be. I’ve been hella stressed lately, which means I’ve been watching an obscene amount of reality television.
After exhausting Netfilx’s supply of Toddlers and Tiaras–shut up, you watch it too–I turned to Hell’s Kitchen. I was fascinated by how often the chefs on the show screw up Gordon Ramsay’s risotto. Considering it’s on his menu every service of every season you’d think they’d get it right eventually. I began thinking, is it really that hard? There are so many things that can go wrong with a risotto, but after a little research I realized it’s so easy to make it go right.
I also learned, like pretty much every thing else there is to bake or cook, there’s no one right way to make a risotto. There’s also multiple preferences for what the consistency should be at the end, how al dente it should be, et c. So even if you do “screw up” your risotto, chances are you got it right to somebody’s preferences.
1 small shallot (diced)
2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz portabella mushrooms (sliced)
10 oz Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock or broth (low sodium, warmed)
4 oz spinach
2 oz Parmesan cheese
Saffron (pinch, optional)
Dice your shallot and slice your mushrooms. You can dice your mushrooms if you like, but I prefer them sliced in this dish.
You can use fancier mushrooms like porcini or something, but they’re expensive.
Rinse and dry your spinach. How much you use is up to you but I always go by fractions. I wanted this to be primarily mushroom flavored so I used half the amount of spinach.
Grate your cheese. It’s important to have all your additions ready before you start. Otherwise you’ll risk overcooking or even burning your risotto.
Sweat your shallot in 2 tbsp of oil for 3 minutes. No you don’t need this much oil to sweat an onion, the rest of it is for your rice to absorb. Do not let your onions brown.
If you’re using a regular onion consider using some garlic. I’m not using garlic with my shallot because of the slight garlic flavor shallots already provide.
Increase your heat to med/med- high and saute your mushrooms about 3 minutes or until they’ve started to soften, being careful not to let your shallot burn. Lightly salt here, very carefully if you’re using broth later.
Yes, I realize I’m crowding my pan. But I figured since…whatever I just didn’t feel like cooking it in sections.
Your pan should not be filled with water. If it is, your stove temp wasn’t high enough.
Turn your heat down to medium. Add your rice and toast it for about 1 minute. Toast until it becomes hot to the touch. Toasting doesn’t mean browning. You want to mix it with the oil so it starts becoming translucent around the edges. This encourages the risotto to be creamy rather than mushy.
I’m using Arborio rice, you want to use any Italian short grain (Arborio, Carnaroli, Vialone, Nano, or Bald). Don’t rinse it. Rinsing removes starch, which gives the risotto that creamy texture.
Add your wine and cook it down. Make sure you actually cook it down. If you don’t your risotto will have a strong wine flavor. You can see the edges becoming translucent.
From here on you’ve got about 20 minutes of stirring to do, give or take. So get comfy. Enjoy this time. It’s relaxing. Unless you decided to make risotto in your 90° kitchen then it’s more like a sauna. But saunas are relaxing right?
Now add 1 cup (1/4 total) of your broth or stock and your saffron if you’re using it. Bring to a low boil while stirring constantly to prevent any burning.
Make sure you’re scraping your edges down to ensure all the rice is cooking evenly. Use a wooden spoon or spatula. A metal spoon is thought to be too violent for the rice kernels.
Keep your broth at a low simmer (covered) while you make your risotto. If you don’t use warm broth your rice kernel will be harder in the center and your cooking time will be longer.
When most of your liquid is absorbed add more broth in about 1/2 cup additions.
I think the confusing thing for people regarding risotto is it kind of looks done half way through. Look at the kernels they should be translucent all the way around with only a small amount of solid white. You can tell just by looking, this isn’t done yet.
Near the end of your last addition add your spinach.
When your risotto is done turn off your heat and add your Parmesan.
How do you know when it’s done? When it’s translucent almost all the way through with a little bit of white in the middle. When you bite into it it should be al dente, meaning “to the tooth.” Firm, but not crunchy.
What happens if you get to this stage and your rice is still crunchy? Add some more broth and cook it longer. It’s a good idea to have a little more liquid than what your recipe calls for just in case.
Turn of your heat and add your Parmesan (or whatever cheese you want to add), taste and salt if needed. Really stir the cheese in there, almost like a whisking motion.
If you want it creamier/looser, add some butter, more cheese, more broth. All up to you.
You want your risotto to be thick enough so it’s not soup and thin enough so it’s not pasty. I know, it’s a fine line.
Run your spoon or spatula across the bottom of your pan, does your risotto slowly undulate towards itself? Then you’re at a good place. It’s just up to you to determine your preference in the speed of your risotto’s undulations. I just like looking for excuses to say the word undulate.
Serve immediately. Don’t let that risotto die you donkey.