Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Risotto: The Second Coming

All day, I complained about how tired I was. I slumped. I hunched. I slunk around corners, rubbing my eyes and checking the clock. I drank caffeinated coffee, caffeinated tea, and (horrors!) Mountain Dew.

So what on earth would possess me, on a day as energy-less as today, to make risotto?

There is no shortage of quick and easy carbs in my pantry: spaghetti, cous cous, Success Rice (yes, I sometimes use Success Rice). But despite the availability of all those, I chose to make risotto.

It's basically the polar opposite of Success Rice. And those of you who were there for my Risotto Disaster a few months ago know my history with this starchy little devil.

Read on to see if I destroyed it...or coaxed deliciousness out of every grain....


***As a preface: I am completely aware of my recent obsession with all of the above ingredients. But let me defend myself: first of all, hot Italian sausage is one of the top five most delicious foods in the world (you heard it here first, people). Second, eating broccoli alongside anything makes me feel less guilty for whatever I'm eating (i.e., sausage). A culinary Hail Mary, if you will. And caramelized onions...well, there's just not a whole lot I can even say about them. How amazing they taste in or on just about everything really just says it all.***


1/2 large white onion
1 c. dry Arborio rice
one 32-oz. container chicken broth
2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
3 hot Italian sausages
1 head broccoli
1 can Italian-seasoned diced tomatoes
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
1 tsp. sugar
grated parmesan for garnish (optional)


Thinly slice the onion and chop the broccoli into smallish florets.

Remove the sausage from the casing and brown it over medium-high heat until almost cooked through (i.e., just a tiny bit pink inside). Remove from the pan and set aside, leaving the drippings in the pan. Add a T. of butter to the pan drippings (don't freak out, just put it in the pan, you'll thank me later).

Add the onion to the pan and cook over medium heat (add a little salt and pepper) until the onion is caramelized. Throw in a pinch of sugar at the end to help it get brown. When they're done, set aside and keep warm.


Make the risotto. You're supposed to use hot stock for this, but I never do. I just add it cold or room temperature, and this time around, it came out fine. First, saute the rice grains in a T. of butter and a T. of oil until they're coated and beginning to turn translucent.

NOTE: This is where you would normally add about a 1/2 c. of dry white wine, but I didn't have any, so I just skipped it.

Then slowly add the broth, about a 1/2 cupful at a time, and stir the rice until the batch of stock is almost absorbed. Then add mroe. Then stir more. Continue to do this (and trust me when I say you need to seriously stand there and stir it - you do not want to be scrubbing glued-on risotto off your pots). You'll know it's done when the grains are al dente (like pasta), and there is enough liquid in the mixture to allow the risotto to slightly run on the plate when you serve it. If you can't serve it immediately, put a ld on it, and stir in a tad more liquid when you reheat it. When it's done, fold in the caramelized onions, add the lemon juice, and season to taste.


Pour the can of diced tomatoes and all the juices into a large saucepan. Bring it up to medium-high heat, and add the browned sausage and the broccoli florets. Cook, covered, for 5-7 minutes, until the broccoli is just tender.


Place some risotto in a shallow serving bowl, and ladle some of the sausage-broccoli-tomato mixture on top. Sprinkle with a little parmesan if desired.

ROSS: When I first saw this, it looked like ingredients that would not go together very well, but I'm impressed at how well it's all working together. The risotto is cooked perfectly, and that's the key to the dish. Even though I wanted to use my sausages for sausage sandwiches [pouty frown]...

MY VOTE ON MY DISH: I give it 7 stars. Most of those stars are for getting the risotto right this time (wonders!). It was not sticky, gluey, and unpalatable, like last time. It was al dente, but still creamy and flavorful. I'm forgoing the other three stars due to ingredient overuse (sausage) and lack of creativity (i.e., pouring some stuff over a bowl of carbs). Although I must say, on a cold night, there aren't too many things more satisfying than a bowl of fresh risotto, spicy sausage, and homey tomato sauce. It was a tasty Winter treat - and, despite the risotto-stirring ball-and-chain, very easy to make.

Thanks for reading! Heads up for a blog-on-the-road brunch post soon, and a salmon post (this goes out to you, Andrea :-). Later, friends.

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