I had never made risotto before. Until recently, I really didn’t know what it was. Just this past summer Joe and I were having dinner at our favorite local Italian restaurant, and I was talking with one of the owners about gluten free alternatives to pasta (because in Italian restaurants most dishes are served over pasta, don’t ya know), and they suggested risotto. They had to explain to me the difference between risotto and polenta: in a nutshell, risotto is rice, polenta is corn. Glad I finally got that straight…
And when I see “caramelized onions” on a menu or in a recipe, that gets my attention. Years ago I tried a pork chop recipe with caramelized onions I saw in one of my very first Fine Cooking magazines, and I will NEVER EVER use Shake-and Bake again. Delicious. (Pork chops are delicious cooked with grapes, too!)
Anyway, I just had to try this recipe from my most recent issue of Fine Cooking:
CARAMELIZED ONION RISOTTO
Serves 4 to 6
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb. yellow onions (about 4 medium), halved through the root and thinly sliced lengthwise (see photo)
4 cups lower-salt chicken broth
2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1 oz. finely grated Gouda or Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup on a rasp grater)
Freshly ground black pepper
The magazine says if you’re cooking onions quickly, cut them crosswise (on the left), which is how I would normally slice onions. Cutting them lengthwise (on the right) supposedly is better if you’re cooking them nice and slow.
Heat the olive oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the onions and reduce the heat to medium. Cook without stirring until the bottom of the pot begins to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and stir with a wooden spatula. Combine to cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot frequently and adjusting the heat as necessary, until the onions are well-browned, 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a 3-quart saucepan, combine the broth with 2 cups water and set over medium heat until steaming hot.
Transfer the onions to a small bowl, cover, and keep warm. Add about 1/2 cup of the broth mixture to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot with the wooden spatula until any stuck-on bits are released. Pour the liquid back into the broth mixture. wipe out the pot.
Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in the pot over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring gently, until glossy and translucent around the edges, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring until absorbed, about 1 minute. Ladle enough broth over the rice to just cover (about 1/2 cup) and simmer, stirring often, until most of the broth has been absorbed (test by running a spoon through the rice; no vroth should pool on the pot bottom). Continue to add the broth in this manner, stirring often, until the rice is just tender but has a bit of resistance when you bite into it, 20 to 30 minutes. (You may not need all of the broth.)
Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs. butter, the cheese, and all but 1/2 cup of the onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately, topped with the remaining onions.
Fine Cooking, No. 121, Feb/Mar 2013, p. 48
Two things I learned (besides that thing about cutting onions lengthwise vs. crosswise):
1. Risotto has more than twice the liquid of regular rice. That’s what makes it so creamy and yummy.
2. Cooking risotto can be slightly tedious, but it’s really quite easy. You just have to stay with it and pay attention.
And on a side note, if you’re making risotto for the first time, I wouldn’t try it on a busy weeknight. It takes longer than I expected, and I was glad I waited until Saturday. That said, if I wanted to make it on a Tuesday I probably could if we weren’t in a huge hurry.
The Verdict: A unanimous thumbs-up. There were NO leftovers, much to my disappointment.
(We grilled chicken, too. I’ll post the recipe I used for the glaze in my next “7 Quick Takes.” It’s so simple it doesn’t need an entire post. Stay tuned!!)