Friday, June 4, 2010

Risotto, An Ode to Sophia

Although I freely admit to being an Anglophile, preferring Tudor houses, Georgian furniture, Jaguar automobiles, & Harris Tweed jackets, I have to defer to the Italians when it comes to knowing how to live.  After all, when I grew up the biggest sex symbols were Elizabeth Taylor, Bridget Bardot, & Sophia Loren.  

Elizabeth Taylor, Bridget Bardot, & Sophia Loren in the 1960s

Elizabeth Taylor, Bridget Bardot, & Sophia Loren today.

See what I mean.  So when it comes to comfort food with panache, look to the Italians.  Risotto has a reputation for being difficult, but it is, in fact, very simple.  It just isn’t fast.  Nothing sensual is.  Risotto, once  learned, will yield multiple pleasures, limited only by your imagination.  If you want a simple substitute for potatoes, use the basic recipe.  You want a sophisticated side dish to impress the in-laws?  Throw in a cup of asparagus cut in bite size pieces.  How about a satisfying main dish?  Add chunks of rotisserie chicken or some boiled shrimp.  Whatever you add to your risotto, it helps to think of Sophia  laughing, living well, and lasting long.

Scallops in Brown Butter 
with Mushroom Risotto and Asparagus


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup rice (purists use Arborio rice, I use standard long grain)
  • ½ cup good Chardonnay (or ¼ Cognac or ½ cup Champagne, be creative)
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (don’t use that powdered stuff!)
  1. Bring chicken stock to a bare simmer in its own sauce pan.
  2. In a separate sauce pan, saute onion in olive oil until translucent.
  3. Add rice, stir until rice is well coated with hot oil, about one minute.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, add wine and stir until wine is absorbed.
  5. Add simmering chicken stock one ladle at a time, stirring rice until each ladle of stock is absorbed.  Contrary to popular myth, you don’t have to stand over the stove stirring constantly.  In fact, over stirring will break up your rice and give an unpleasant, pasty texture to your risotto.  However, don’t neglect the rice either.  It should take 20- 25 minutes to incorporate all the stock.
  6. Add cheese and stir.
  7. Season to taste.  Seasonings will vary depending on your variation.  I use chicken stock that is very salty and generally never add salt.  I do add pepper almost always.  If I’m adding mushrooms or chicken I will add a ½ tsp of sage.  If I’m using shrimp I will add tarragon.  Think of risotto as a blank canvas.
  8. After adding the seasoning, add whatever vegetables you like.  Many recipes call for pre-cooking your veggies, but I just add the veggies, stir, cover, & let the risotto sit for five minutes.
  9. After the risotto has set for five minutes add your room temperature meat/seafood and serve.

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