Monday, November 3, 2008

31. Parmesan Risotto

Date Cooked: October 28, 2008
Page: 218
Rating: B-

Risotto. Another one of those dishes that intimidated me based on all the horror stories and dire warnings of not being careful when preparing it. I was imagining a dish that would go from palatable to a charred cement fused to my pan if I even looked away. Well I am happy to say nothing could be further from the truth.

We were hunting for ideas to serve with a small roast we were going to be having and I wasn’t in the mood for the original suggestion of boiled potatoes. Even though boiled potatoes are in the book I felt like something a little heartier. Skimming through the rice and grains chapter I spied risotto and after my success with the roux for the gumbo I felt I could do this. Plus I had all the ingredients on hand. So I set my mise en place and began.

First a diluted mixture of chicken stock gets heated to use as the liquid which will be slowly added to the risotto as it cooks. I still haven’t gotten around to making chicken stock so I used store bought. I’m not sure why I shy away from making chicken stock since I have two chicken carcasses in my freezer waiting to be cooked up. But until I do it will be store bought reduced sodium chicken stock. I don’t really like the brand I used this time since I found it rather dark which affected the look (but not flavor) of the dish.

So with the base stock warmed I began the rewarding experience of softening soft onions in butter. The onions cooked slowly until they reached a point and decided to immediately caramelize. This wasn’t the goal and I was concerned my dream of creating a creamy parmesan risotto would already be ruined by little flecks of brown burnt onion. But I forged on anyway since this is all a learning experience.

With the onions destroyed I added the Arborio rice and cooked it for a few minutes before adding the dry white wine. The wine selection for this dish was a nice local dry wine with a full body and nice undertones of oak wood and nutty fruits… actually since I am not a wine connoisseur, or sommelier if you will, I made all that crap up. I had an open bottle in the fridge which miraculously had exactly one cup of wine left in it. When I poured the wine in sizzled and spattered and I kept thinking this could burst into flames, but it settled down fast and I relaxed. Now the entire kitchen smelled of wine.

Once the wine had been absorbed the laborious process of slowly adding stock began. The book gives instructions on when to add stock and stir and how long to cook but I found it was pretty much useless after the first three minutes. I kept adding the warm stock as I went and stirred frequently to avoid having the risotto burn to the bottom of the pan. The book estimated about 20 minutes of cooking but somewhere between 12 minutes and 14 minutes the risotto went from undercooked to overcooked. Not badly overcooked just not al dente anymore. Off heat I added the parmesan cheese.

Rating: B- This was really not a bad dish. I’ve got several discussion points to make about it but overall the risotto cooking process was not difficult, just attention demanding. But these are my gripes. Let’s start with the color. The stock gave it a brownish color which I didn’t care for. I wanted a nice light creamy color. The onions which I caramelized blended back into the mix though and I could barely even identify them which was nice. My second point of contention was the wine used. It left a strong presence in the risotto which when combined with the sharp flavor of the parmesan didn’t leave me with a creamy flavor to match the texture of the dish. I didn’t dislike it but I felt it really stood out… a lot.


  1. Ah, but with all of this knowledge under your belt, next time you make it I bet it will be fabulous!

    Just send that first batch over here, along with a spoon. I'll take care of it for you.

  2. are actually braver than I am!! I have never quite enjoy making risotto - nervous about its consistency. This looks delicious though .. with parmesan, mmhh..


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