The basic method of making risotto will never change: you cook the rice slowly and add broth gradually, so the starchy inside of the rice kernel expands as the outside layer dissolves into creaminess. Risotto feeds the soul and can take a whole range of flavors. I like the pumpkin risotto here, but try a shrimp risotto using shellfish broth, adding a pound of peeled shrimp at the last minute and letting them cook no more than 5 minutes. Or how about a green risotto, with a bunch of watercress or a few handfuls of spinach, chopped fine? Or a mushroom risotto with a pound of sliced fresh mushrooms added to the dried porcini mushrooms.
Keep in mind that there’s a lot of bad risotto out there, usually because folks overcook it or add too much wine. But if you do have some white wine open, add a splash or two to the rice and onions, just before you ladle in the broth. It gives yet another dimension of flavor.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cups diced peeled fresh pumpkin
2 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken broth, heated
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh rosemary
A few dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat and sweat the onions until soft. Add the pumpkin and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the rice, stirring with a wooden spoon to make sure each kernel is coated with oil.
2. Add 3 cups of the hot chicken broth, the rosemary, and porcini mushrooms to the rice. Bring slowly to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. As the broth is absorbed, add more broth and stir often.
3. Cook the rice until it is slightly al dente and most of the broth has been absorbed. The rice should be creamy and porridge-like. This should take about 18 minutes. Then finish the risotto by stirring in the butter and Parmesan cheese. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper before serving.
From My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing.
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