Eric is back with another recipe, and this time he’s gone the extra mile by including the steps he takes in making the perfect risotto. What a simple pleasure risotto is! This classic Northern Italian dish needs but a few very simple ingredients--stock, rice, butter, and cheese--yet yields a dish that is creamy, complex, an ultimate wine food, and the base for a virtually endless array of combinations that will ensure you never run out of risotto ideas.
The trick, of course, is perfecting that basic Risotto Bianco. With Eric’s step-by-step directions, illustrative photos, great ingredients, and some patience, you’re sure to master it in no time. One thing that is worth pointing out is that Risotto is not the place to skimp on ingredients. With so little to hide the pure flavors of the ingredients it is vital that you start with the best you can find, so make sure you get fresh, sweet butter, the best short grain rice you can locate, freshly grated cheese, and plan ahead so that you can make your own stock!
Meet Chef Eric GuidoAfter working in the New York City restaurant scene, Eric Guido branched out, organizing private dining and tasting events centered around Italian cuisine and wine. Here he began to incorporate food photography and recipe development. His continuing work can be seen at www.theviptable.net. Eric’s passion for food and wine is fueled by the togetherness and satisfaction found at the table.
I once had a friend ask me about making risotto. He had sampled this dish on a number of occasions in my home and had yet to be able to recreate those results on his own. Nor had he found any restaurant risotto that came close to mine. It’s amazing how something so wonderful and so simple can leave people scratching their heads because in reality, there is really only one secret ingredient: patience. I suppose patience is something that comes at a premium these days. However, I doubt I'm the only one who remembers my grandmother cooking for five hours every Sunday morning and the luxurious feast that would result from it.
In this case it is less about patience and more about turning over tables and getting food out quickly. You see, the average restaurant wants to be able to complete a dish within 3 - 5 minutes, once it's fired (started), which makes the 18 - 20 minute cooking process of risotto a problem. The answer in most establishments is to precook the rice, literally to the point where it is nearly done. Then when an order comes in, the rice is scooped from a holding tray and the risotto is finished. Anyone who truly loves risotto would frown upon this, but finding places that understand the importance of making risotto from start to finish, at the time it is ordered, are few and far between.
I assure you that, with a little patience and a bit of technique, you can make risotto that will thrill your guests and put you on the road to mastering this preparation. We'll start with the most basic, White Risotto with Parmigiano Reggiano, which is the foundation that you can build upon to create a multitude of recipes. Then, I’ll show you how to create something unique, Asparagus Risotto with Toasted Almonds, by simply making a few small tweaks of the original recipe. As for wine, a textbook pairing for each of these recipes is Arneis.
White Risotto with Parmigiano Reggiano is the first risotto I ever made and the one that hooked me for life. Nowhere else will you find the purest and simplest qualities of risotto showcased on a single plate. The rice is al dente and pearly white with a luminescent sheen, suspended in a savory sauce. The Parmigiano adds nuttiness and salinity, which helps to enrich the slight chicken flavor of the stock and sweet shallots. Each individual smell and flavor lends its qualities to the whole and promotes a sensation of warmth and comfort.
Asparagus risotto with toasted almonds takes the recipe above and fortifies its hearty richness with fresh, sweet vegetal notes. The components are nearly the same, but the asparagus creates the perfect yin to the white risotto’s yang and, in doing so, makes for an exciting and indulgent meal. The toasted almonds not only lend wonderful color to the presentation but are also a main part of the dish, and they provide a crunchy, toasted, and slightly salty diversion from the rich risotto and succulent asparagus.
The 2008 Vietti Roero Arneis shows the color of golden yellow straw with whimsical aromas of spring rain, white flowers and lime. On the palate you find Granny Smith apple, green melon, and orange rind, all carried by vibrant acidity with a laser-like focus that cuts through the risotto like a knife. The finish shows citrus fruit and leaves your palate feeling cleansed and refreshed.