For basic preparation, the rice is first cooked briefly in butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat. White wine is added and absorbed by the grains. When the wine has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and hot stock is gradually added in small amounts, while stirring gently and almost constantly. Stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. When the risotto is ready, it is taken off the heat, and diced cold butter and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese are vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible.
The following is a heavenly risotto John and I prepared together last night. There is nothing difficult about it. Simply pour yourself a glass of wine, take a few minutes to chop your vegetables while the broth heats up, and chat about your day while adding broth and stirring for 30 minutes. The layers of flavor are magnificent.
Porcini Mushroom Risotto with Peas
Slightly modified from Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Italian, Risotto Cravings
8 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2-ounce dried, porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoons diced, cold butter
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, optional
Additional shavings of Parmesan for garnish, optional
Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms. Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Finely chop the mushrooms and set aside. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.
Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute about a minute. Add the mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring, until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, about 30 minutes (the rice should absorb 8 cups of broth). Mix in the diced butter and Parmesan. Stir in the peas. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Shave some additional Parmesan over the top.
According to my new book, What to Drink with What you Eat, which I am thoroughly enjoying, the highly recommended pairing with Mushroom Risotto is Pinot Noir, especially California.