My stock is going. My hands are stirring. My appetite is growing.
While Italy may win in the battle of “Who-has-the-most-gluten-in-their-food” (pasta, lasagna, pizza…), they did come up with one dish that is naturally gluten-free, and naturally devastatingly creamy: RISOTTO.
Many will think that the creaminess of the classic risotto comes from cream, milk, or cheese added into it. This is far from the truth! A good risotto will require nothing more than an optional touch of cheese, and a lot if you want a really hearty meal. The creamy texture of risotto comes from the starch of the rice, and the slow stirring process to release all of that starch. You don’t even need dairy, and the below recipe agrees.
There are three types of risotto rices. Here are the differences:
1. Arborio: Arborio rice is the “classic” risotto rice– it is what you probably get when you go to a restaurant, and the most common to find in stores. I has a nice creamy starch content and pairs well with both meats, cheeses, and by itself.
2. Carnaroli: This is the cream de la cream… very figuratively. This stuff is creamy! It is best paired with meat, as it is a formidable player in its natural richness.
3. Vialone Nano: Nano is the “light” version of risotto rice. It has a starchy content, of course, but its “skim milk” texture makes it delicious with vegetables, seafood, or lighter meats.
Now back to my stock going; and eating. Tonight, I wanted something delectable. After golfing nine holes in the unrelenting rain, I knew what I wanted: Risotto. Those simple flavors of herbs mixing with the rich, luscious rice that has been slow cooked and churned for almost an hour. That almost cake-batter-like satisfaction that comes from something savory. Really savory.
Well, my friends, Risotto is no mystery, and the cream comes down to a few factors: the starch from the rice (which is released by the constant stirring of the rice while cooking), and the emulsification (meaning binding of liquid and ingredients) of stock and olive oil.
You don’t need downpours and metal clubs to enjoy this wonderful Italian treat. Stir yourself something exquisite, that is exquisitely dairy-, gluten-, nut-, soy-, and egg-free.
For the Risotto:
1 cup arborio
1/4 large yellow onion, diced
2 tbs. high heat oil
3 cups +1 cup stock, divided
1/3 cup white wine
4 tbs. olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs. fresh sage, chiffonade
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
3 small tomatoes, coarsely diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
a heaping tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
ground black pepper, to taste
Special tools: 1 wooden spoon. (It releases the starch in the rice, and the technique cannot be done correctly with a metal or plastic spoon.)
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Serves 3-4, as a side dish, 2 as a main dish
1. In a large pot, heat 2 tbs. high heat oil over medium-high heat. Add diced yellow onion, and sweat out 2-3 minutes, or until aromatic and edges are beginning to brown. Add in your arborio rice and toast it, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add 1 cup stock, and this is where your stirring begins. Reduce heat the medium, and stir constantly until the rice has soaked up all of the water (about 5-7 minutes), and then add another 1/2 cup stock. Stir constantly, and once liquid has seemed to be completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup wine. Repeat with one more 1/2 cup stock. This should take about 25-30 mintutes. (Consider it your work-out for the day? I have.) Once all of the liquid has soaked up, remove from heat, and evenly spread out your risotto on a cookie sheet using wooden spoon. Set aside, and let set for 10 minutes.
2. In a large saute’ pan, heat 2 tbs. olive oil over medium heat. (Nothing higher or your olive oil and garlic will burn.) Add diced shallots, and sweat out for 3 minutes. Add garlic and sage, and cook for another 1 minute. Add chopped thyme, chopped tomatoes, and basil, and saute’ for another minute.
3. Add cooked risotto, 1/2 cup stock, 1 tbs. olive oil, salt, and paprika. Stir with that wooden spoon until the stock and oil have emulsified. Add last 1/2 cup stock, stirring until creamy (about 1-2 minutes). Taste for salt, and add more and whatever amount of ground black pepper your heart desires.
Serve immediately! (Might I suggest a little fresh sage as a garnish?) Bon App!