Risotto happens to be one of my favorite dishes, particularly during the cold winter months. There is just something about the way the rice takes on a creamy texture but still maintains enough character to make it almost pasta-like. Plus it also happens to be one of those glorious, naturally gluten-free dishes.*
The difficulty with risotto, particularly when eating out is two-fold. One you need to make sure that the stock that is used to make the risotto is gluten-free and preferably homemade. Second, the trick to risotto is to get it to the point that it is creamy but the rice still is al dente. In a restaurant setting this is a little difficult since they don’t usually have the time to spend 20-30 minutes on your plate of risotto so they par-cook it and then finish it. Often, I find that this results in over-cooked risotto. This not only happens in restaurant settings, but I also find it creates a challenging situation when preparing risotto for a dinner party. The solution I’ve found is to not make risotto as a side dish but to treat risotto as the star, as it so deserves. Serve it with a nice salad and you have a beautiful dinner that is also extremely hearty and satisfying as well.
Over the years I’ve had many different types of risotto and have experimented myself with many different variations. Basic risotto is actually very simple to make, it just requires attention throughout the cooking process, since the stock needs to be added gradually to the rice and absorbed into the rice between each addition. Below is a basic risotto recipe to get you going.
- 1-1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 cup Arborio rice, uncooked
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 4-5 cups gf stock (chicken, beef, fish or vegetable)
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (optional)
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
I have found that it works best to use a pan with a fairly large bottom surface area and somewhat deep sides (maybe 3-4 inches deep). The larger surface area helps when you are cooking the risotto and seems to speed up the process slightly. Heat the olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and sauté until tender, about 3-4 minutes. In a separate small saucepan, heat the broth over medium-low heat.
Add the rice to the pan and stir until the rice turns somewhat translucent. Add the wine and stir until the alcohol vapors cook off. This will give the rice a wonderful flavor when it is done.
Add 1 cup of stock to the rice mixture and stir constantly until the liquid is completely absorbed by the rice. Keep adding stock, a cup at a time, in the same method as the first, until all the liquid is absorbed by the rice. By the time you finish with the final cup of stock the rice should be al denté (tender, but with a slight bite to it). The consistency of your risotto at this point should be a lovely creamy mixture. To finish the risotto, add the parmesan cheese and stir until completely incorporated. Just before serving, stir in the butter. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Once you have the basic recipe down you can add your own creative flair to your risotto by adding different vegetables, either within the risotto or on top, or adding nuts (like pine nuts), or different cheeses. My favorite risotto is Mushroom Risotto. I’ve experimented with several different types of mushroom risotto – using fresh mushrooms or hydrating more exotic mushrooms and adding them to the dish – but I’ve found that I prefer the fresh mushroom technique. Below you will find my favorite recipe for Mushroom Risotto – perfect for a cold winter night!
- 4 cups of gf chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1 lb. mixed fresh mushrooms (like cremini, portabella’s, shiitakes, oyster), chopped
- 1-1/4 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry Sherry
- 1/2 cup Parmigianino Reggiano cheese, grated
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 Tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the stock in a saucepan and heat to a simmer. Melt the butter in a separate large saucepan over medium heat along with the olive oil. Add the shallots; sauté for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned and the mushrooms are soft and have released their liquid. Remove half the mushrooms from the pan and set aside on a plate. Add the rice to the pan and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the sherry and cook at a simmer until the rice absorbs the sherry. Add about ½ cup of the hot stock to the rice and cook at a simmer, stirring constantly, until the rice again absorbs the liquid. Continue this process until the rice is creamy and when tested it is almost al dente. Return the reserved mushrooms to the rice and continue adding the stock until the rice is truly al dente (it should be tender but still have a slight firmness to it). Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Adjust seasonings to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Just before serving stir in 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter and fresh Italian parsley.
Other great ideas for risotto:
Asparagus & Mixed Mushroom Risotto
Cauliflower & Leek Risotto
Chile Spiced Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms
Crab & Shrimp Risotto
Risotto with Kale & Toasted Pine Nuts
Roasted Red Pepper Risotto with Sausage
Shrimp & Pea Risotto
Spicy Risotto with Fresh Mozzarella
*Risotto is naturally gluten-free if it is made with authentic gluten-free ingredients – for example homemade naturally gluten-free chicken stock or vegetable stock.
- Chef Jessica