Sunday, November 15, 2015

It’s 6 pm and I Haven’t Planned Dinner

Risotto Parmigiano
At least once a week I have no idea what I’ll be making for dinner.  Too late to run to the grocery store, I have to scrounge through my pantry to find something, anything, that will make a presentable meal. 

What basics do I always have available?  What can be defrosted in 15 minutes?  What is easy and quick? 

Right at the top of my mental list is Risotto, a fancy name for an Italian rice dish.  Although it requires hand-stirring for 15-20 minutes, Risotto is simple to make.  Once you get around the idea of eating a plate of rice for dinner I bet you’ll like it as much as I do. 

Conveniently it has just a few basic ingredients, although sometimes I’ll add 1-inch pieces of raw asparagus or 8 ounces of halved fresh mushrooms or maybe a handful of cooked, peeled shrimp or frozen peas.  Once I tossed in a thinly sliced spicy chicken sausage. 

The key to Risotto is the rice.  Look for Arborio rice.  It’s short-grained, which means it has a high starch content and is creamy when cooked.  It’s available at gourmet stores and some grocery stores.

Add a salad and you have a filling meal.
Risotto Parmigiano – serves 2-3 
3 cups chicken broth + boiling water (if needed) 
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil 
1 medium onion, finely chopped 
1 cup Arborio rice 
1/2 cup dry white wine 
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
1/2 teaspoon salt     
(Optional ingredients: 10 raw asparagus spears cut into 1-inch lengths, 8 ounces whole mushrooms cut in half, a handful of frozen peas or a handful of cooked shrimp or sliced cooked sausage)  
Heat the broth in a saucepan and keep warm over low heat. 
Melt the butter (or heat the oil) in a large saucepan and add the onion.  Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the onion softens.    
Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes, or just enough to coat the rice with the butter (or oil).  
Stir in the wine. Cook, stirring constantly, until the wine has evaporated.  Add a few ladles of broth, just enough to cover the rice.  Cook over medium heat, continually stirring, until the broth has been absorbed.  
Continue cooking and stirring the rice in this manner, adding broth a bit at the time, until the rice is done, 15-20 minutes. If you run out of broth, use boiling water.  Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. 
At this point, the rice should be tender but still firm to the bite. It should have a creamy, moist consistency.  Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately with the remaining Parmesan cheese. 
NOTE: Add the asparagus or mushrooms right after adding the rice.  Add the peas, shrimp or sliced cooked sausage when the rice is almost fully cooked.

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