Saturday, September 15, 2012

Al Dente Rice? Risotto!

A classic Italian rice dish served in many a fine dining establishment is called Risotto. The rice is cooked to an al dente consistency which means it is "firm to the tooth", but not hard nor crunchy; and certainly not mushy. The type of rice used for risotto is called Arborio; a short grained, starchy rice which was exclusively grown in Italy, but now comes from Texas and California as well.

Cooking this type of rice is much different than the typical white or long grained rices; for one cup of rice it takes up to 4 cups of hot liquid to achieve the right consistency. Normally rice is cooked in a 2 to 1 ratio; two cups of liquid to one cup rice where the rice and liquid are brought up to a boil together, left to simmer and then settle.  Another difference is that the dry arborio rice is sauteed in a pan with ingredients before the liquid begins to be added in.  With other types of rice, the seasonings or other ingredients are added in after the rice has fully, or almost fully, cooked.  So this makes it important to plan your risotto dish ahead, since adding ingredients after it is completed sort of defeats the purpose of the dish itself.

Chicken and Mushroom Risotto


4 Tbsp butter, divided in half
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into pieces
½ cup diced onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
½ cup white wine
5 ½ cups hot chicken stock
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp minced parsley


In a large skillet, medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter; saute mushrooms and chicken together until there is no more pink in the chicken. Remove to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap to keep warm and moist.

Reduce heat to medium; in the same skillet, melt 2 remaining tablespoons of butter; saute onion until translucent; add in garlic and rice; stir and let cook until rice turns opaque. Stir in black pepper and wine; let cook until wine is absorbed.

Begin adding chicken stock one half cup at a time; do not add next half cup until previous one has been absorbed into the rice. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula gently to keep rice from breaking apart.

When the last half cup of stock has been reached, add back the mushrooms and chicken; add in the grated cheese and parsley. Stir thoroughly; remove from heat once stock has been fully absorbed and the rice is creamy; stir and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Mary Cokenour

1 comment:

  1. Funny... just as I started working again on my blog about travels in Italy, you post this recipe!

    Last year, we passed through Isola della Scala, just south of Verona, which touts itself as "Risotto Capital"! Of course, we had risotto there. It was done with ground meat (pork and beef mixed) and onions.

    I make various kinds of risotto at home, it is a recipe that can easily be modified depending on the vegetables and meats at hand. One of my favourite is fennel, a very aromatic side dish or vegetarian main course.