I'm not going to lie, making risotto can be both time-consuming and tiring for that hard working stirring arm, but the final product of creamy decadence makes it all worth it. In culinary school, we learned that risotto is not actually a type of rice, but instead a method for cooking grains, which is a common misconception. The risotto method simply means to add cooking liquid (usually stock) a little at a time to the grain, while stirring frequently. This allows starch to be extracted from the grain, making the end product cohesive, creamy, and smooth. Keep in mind that the more you stir, the more starch is released, and the thicker your risotto will be. Some people think that you must stir constantly during the cooking process, but I like my risotto a little looser, and my arm a little less sore, so I take some stirring breaks.
Try using the risotto method on some different grains, such as barley, farrow, quinoa, and even wild rices. If you want to stick to the classic Italian preparation, any short- or medium-grain rice will work. Arborio, Vialone Nano, and Carnaroli are the best varieties, and can be found at most grocery stores.
- 1/2 cup peas, shucked and frozen
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 cups Arborio, Vialone Nano or Carnaroli rice
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 dollop of Mascarpone cheese
- Grated Pecorino Romano, to taste
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Zest of one lemon
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Cook peas in salted boiling water until tender, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil, and hold at a light simmer. In a separate sauce pan, sweat the shallot in oil, until soft and translucent, but achieving no color, about 4 minutes. Add all of the rice to the pot at once and stir to coat with the oil, about 2 minutes. Add wine and reduce until the pan is nearly dry.
Add enough hot stock to cover rice, and stir frequently, keeping the pot at a simmer. When the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, add about 1/2 cup more stock and continue to stir. Continue this process for about 15 minutes.
You will know the rice is done when you take a piece in your thumb and index finger and squeeze. If there are 2 or 3 tiny, white, hard specs in the middle of the rice, it is done and perfectly al dente. Do not worry about using all of the stock; your rice may be done before you use all of it. Keep in mind that you want the rice to be somewhat loose at this point, because the next ingredients will bind it further.
To add a little more creaminess and tang, add a hefty spoonful of Mascarpone cheese and stir to melt. Next, add some grated Pecorino Romano, to taste. Add the peas, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Finally, add salt and pepper, to taste, and serve immediately.