Sometimes You Just Need To Stir. Or, Demysitifying Risotto.

Yum!  All that stirring pays off.

Yum! All that stirring pays off.

Ah, risotto.  Just the name conjures up creaminess, decadence and gobs of time stirring a pot to a perfect consistency.  What if I told you that risotto is actually not that hard?  Or time-consuming?  Or that all that stirring is actually therapeutic?

Years ago I discovered the miraculous properties of this dish.  It is one of those dishes that requires very few ingredients, can be made in infinite varieties, never fails to impress friends, and is a true pleasure to make.  Two of my personal favorites are mushroom or corn.

Having the fixings on hand for a batch of risotto is important for you never know when you’re going to have a hankering for some stirring.  As for ingredients, all you need are:  stock or broth, onions/shallots, arborio rice, a vegetable of choice (mushrooms, butternut squash, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, etc.), splash of wine/sherry/vermouth, and cheese (parmesan, romano, asiago, jack, provolone, even cheddar). As you can see, I’ve discovered the dish to be an infinitely versatile dish with few rules.

Some days I just return home from the job, mind a-racing, heart a-thumping and I know that I need to do something that requires mindless movements with a stomach warming reward.  These are the days I turn to risotto, not just for a tasty meal but for the aforementioned unconventional rewards.

Is risotto time-consuming?  Not particularly, especially when you consider that even a frozen pizza takes about a half hour to bake.  Does it need constant attention?  Sort of, but that extra attention is what makes this dish so meditative to make, and delicious to taste.  Personally, risotto is one of the most comforting meals to eat and to make.  It is very inexpensive and you can incorporate various ingredients to your liking.  In life where there is so much that you cannot control, isn’t it good to know there is a meal out that benefits from your attention and also tastes amazing?

Below is my adaptation of a corn risotto recipe.  (We received a bounty of corn this summer from a neighbor and froze it for preservation.)  I am not a stickler for exact measurements, so once you get the hang of this dish, you can adapt as necessary.

For the love of stirring — basic corn risotto recipe

  • 4 cups broth or stock (or, use stock concentrate and water)
  • 1/2  cup chopped onions or shallots — how ever much onion you prefer
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cup corn (frozen is what I use)
  • 1 cup arborio rice (gluten free, often found in bulk sections of your grocery)
  • splash of wine, sherry, vermouth (not necessary, but tasty)
  • 1/2 cup of grated cheese  (provolone, jack or even cheddar work well here)
  • Optional:  bacon, chipoltles (chopped with some adobo sauce to taste)

In a separate saucepan, heat the stock or broth to a low boil.  Keep warm to utilize during cooking.

In a medium pot, saute the onions in about 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, or do a combo of 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. (I have chopped up one piece of bacon, cooked that and then sauteed the onions in bacon drippings, too.)  Saute the onions until translucent and fragrant — about 5 minutes.  Add the corn, and cook until slightly warm, a few minutes.  If using chipotles, add them at this point.  Chipotles are strong, so use caution here!  Add rice and coat the rice with the corn mixture.  Add a splash of wine if available, and again stir to coat.

Now begin adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time.  Stir to incorporate and make sure that the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.  The rice should not boil, but remain at a medium temperature throughout the pot.   Stir fairly consistently until nearly all broth is absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup.  Continue until the rice is cooked and creamy and there is little to no broth left in your second saucepan.  This should take about a half hour or so.  The rice will be slightly al dente, and the dish will be creamy.  Remove from heat and stir in your cheese and any herbs you’d like to add.

Voila!  A calmer mind, an exercised wrist and a warm meal to enjoy!

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