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Gourmet Pastas and Sauces on-line

Alice's Risotto Primer
(view more italian recipes!)

Rice is a big crop around Pavia. It is actually fun to watch rice grow! I used to commute to work in Milano from Pavia by train every day.
The rice fields attract huge populations of frogs which are caught and sold live in the fish market.
One morning in early spring - every spring - everything was changed. The fields were flooded with water which looked like large mirrors. These mirrors of water were especially beautiful in the evening when the sun was slanted and colors were more intense. The farm houses stood firm on tiny islands while thin ribbons of roads connected them to larger streets in the dry world. Then, a few days or weeks later, the mirrors disappeared and everything was bright green. Finally, the fields appeared to return (the rice had grown tall) and it was harvested. Two crops were grown and this process was repeated a second time through the late summer. The rice fields attract huge populations of frogs which are caught and sold live in the fish market. A favorite dish in the summer in Borgo Ticino (the other side of the Ticino River from Pavia) is tiny, whole frogs deep fried. I digress...

Risotto is comfort food. Eating it is very soothing to the mind as well as the palete. It is easy to digest and you feel wonderful after eating it. There is a huge variety from which to choose so it is never boring. It is beautiful. And, best of all, children love it so it is a great way to get them to eat vegetables.

Buy Arborio rice for risotti.

Risotto needs lots of checking, fussing over and some stirring so it is best not to leave the kitchen while you are making it. It takes about 20 minutes.

Alice's Basic Risotto
1 cup of Rice
4 cups of Chicken Broth
1/4 of an onion
1 garlic clove
vegetable oil or sweet butter

I begin by getting out a large medium-sided heavy pot and adding an "antique" metal ring on top of the already existing gas ring to maximize heat distribution and make sure the risotto will not burn while cooking. Then I measure one cup of rice putting that into a small mixing bowl so that the measuring cup is now available for liquids.

I heat 4 cups of chicken broth (which Knorr makes for me in nice neat cubes) or less if one cup is going to be white wine or champagne.

Then I get out the chopping board and mince one quarter of an onion and a clove or two of garlic.

I saut� the mixture in a little vegetable oil or sweet butter, and when the onions are soft, I add the rice and saut� it until it becomes translucent 3 or 4 minutes, stirring constantly to keep it from sticking. Meanwhile, I have heated the chicken broth and add it slowly, one cup at a time to the risotto. Instead of or in addition to the chicken broth, risotto is good with white wine and also champagne . Finally, when it is cooked "al dente", I add virgin olive oil or sweet butter and Parmesan cheese, stir and turn the burner off while the cheese melts. I have read that you can obtain a richer risotto by stirring in a quarter of a cup of heavy cream in addition to the butter. This is called mantecato and is very smooth. But I have never tried this.

Classic Risotto alla Milanese
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 of a small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cups arborio rice
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch saffron (one of those little packets)
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a large stockpot, melt 1 Tablespoon butter. Add onions and garlic; saut� until onion is translucent. Add rice, salt, pepper and saffron; saut.� lightly. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock and keep at a simmer. Add wine to the rice; cook until wine has evaporated. Add 1 cup of hot chicken stock and cook, stirring occasionally over low heat until all of the liquid is absorbed. Add more stock gradually and cook while stirring until it is absorbed. Continue cooking the rice, adding more stock every 3 to 4 mintues until each stock addition is absorbed. When all the stock has been added and absorbed, after about 25 minutes, stir in remaining butter and Parmesan cheese. Risotto should be rich and creamy.

Serves 3 - 4.

This is a very refreshing risotto and perfect for summertime but also good any time of year.
Risotto with Lemon and Herbs
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoons minced shallots
1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup finely minced fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, mint, and marjoram
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put the pasta bowls into the oven on low to warm them.

Heat the stock in a saucepan or in the microwave and keep it at a simmer.

In a large saucepan, saute the shallots in 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil over medium heat until soft but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir until it is well coated with the oil and begins to become translucent, about 2 minutes.

Add a cup of hot stock, stirring constantly until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Keep adding stock a cup at a time, stirring all the while and maintaining the heat at a simmer until all the stock is used and the rice is almost tender, about 18 to 20 minutes. Do not cook the rice too fast and try not to let it stick. It should be creamy and al dente.

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter, all the herbs, the lemon zest and lemon juice, and the cheese. Cover and let rest for several minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately on warm plates. Decorate with sprigs of herbs or some lemon zest if you wish.

Serves 6.


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