Living in Italy for a year meant I had a lot of time to focus on food, roam food markets and notice which foods ‘grew together’ at different times of the year. Right now any combination of winter vegetables would happily co-mingle on top of a plate of risotto. Kale and chard, carrots, brussel sprouts and onions… winter squash, yams, sweet potatoes. Toss in some raisins or nuts for crunchy or sweet notes… I love indulging in sweet potatoes and roast them up so I can plunk them atop my risotto.
Tips. When I am about to make risotto, I snag 2 pots—one small for warming the stock and one medium for the risotto. I decide which vegetables I will dress it with. If I am making mushrooms: I grab a skillet. If roasting vegetables: I grab a sheet pan.
Ever since culinary school my kitchen habit is to gather equipment and ingredients while thinking through my dish. I start by setting the stock on the stove over medium (once it is warm—and if I need the burner—I off the heat or set it aside). I quickly chop up shallots and garlic and toss them in the risotto pot with some olive oil or bacon fat. Sometimes both. I add seasoning to the garlic/shallots: dried thyme, S&P, Italian herbs.
Next up, the vegetables: cut and roast, slice and saute. I get that started. I check the risotto pot: once the garlic/shallots are caramelized I add the arborio rice and coat/warm for 1-2 minutes. Next: white wine. Don’t have it? Use sherry or make a red wine risotto. Vermouth would even work.
Tips continued. After only a minute or two, the wine will have burned off and you add a few ladles of stock. General rule: add enough to come level with top of rice, no more. Give a quick stir then leave it be. You honestly don’t need to babysit risotto. Stirring constantly is a bad myth and makes people think risotto is a pain. It isn’t—it is easy. Ignore it: go change the laundry, pour some wine, step away from the stove. You stir risotto to 1. make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan (so especially toward the end, and/or when liquid is on the cusp of being completely absorbed) and 2. to check if the risotto is ready for the next round of ladling. If you pull your spoon through the risotto and see the bottom—and stock doesn’t fill it—it is ready for the next topper of broth. I do this 2-3 times then start tasting for the texture I want. Arborio shouldn’t be mushy like oatmeal, but it shouldn’t be so chewy you think it will stick in your teeth. It should have a little ‘chew’ but not so much that it is distracting. Season again. Off heat and finish with butter, Parmesan.
When I reheat risotto, I add a few spoons of broth to loosen it up.
For us: leftover risotto almost always hits the skillet the next morning—topped with a poached egg.
Sweet Potato Risotto*
1 cup Arborio rice
4-6 cups chicken stock, warmed
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup minced shallots
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 T olive oil (or bacon fat)
Seasonings (coarse salt, white pepper, Italian herbs, etc.)
1 recipe roasted sweet potatoes
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan
2-3 T butter
Gather all ingredients. Gather all tools and pots you will need (one for stock, one for the risotto, roasting pan for squash, a knife and cutting board, wooden spoon, cheese grater, ladle). If you haven’t already, make the roasted squash. Place stock on stove and heat to a simmer; meanwhile dice shallots, garlic and shred Parmesan. Make the risotto according to the Tips, above. Enjoy!
*or any myriad of vegetables.