Dinner with Kirsten

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Risotto Night

April 7th, 2008 · 13 Comments


I’m a bit of a risotto snob. Reality television cooking shows have fostered this arrogant “I know what risotto should be like” attitude, but I can’t seem to help it. When a congealed scoop of risotto was served to me at the Pearl Room last weekend, I could imagine a red-faced Chef Ramsey (from FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen) turning to a line cook and yelling “rubbish” while smashing the plate on the floor. Risotto should have some fluidity and movement on the plate. It should be al dente and creamy without being too cheesy—most of the “creaminess” comes from the starch of the pasta. This I know from watching reality television.

The thing is, I don’t remember ever actually making risotto. But the Pearl Room’s pasty globule only spurred my appetite for a well-prepared version, so I decided to make my own.

This recipe was a lot of chopping and stirring for a weeknight, and I somehow managed to dirty every single dish in Geoff’s kitchen, but it turned out better than I could ever have hoped. It was creamy, not overly cheesy, firm to the bite but cooked through. The vegetables were the best—cooked but still crisp. It tasted like spring, and the sentiment was the same: Finally!

I always like fish with rice dishes. I think any white fish would go well, but I used Flounder fillets to round out this meal. I sprinkled on some salt and pepper, patted on some flour and pan fried them for a few minutes on each side.

Risotto Alla Primavera
Adapted from Bon Appétit.

6 1/2 cups (about) chicken stock or broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium leek (white part only), sliced crosswise into thin rings
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups arborio rice or carnaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 to 2 cups 1-inch pieces thin asparagus
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (Baby Bellas worked well)
1/2 cup freshly shelled small peas or petite frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving

Heat up stock or broth in a saucepan until it’s simmering. Then cover and keep it warm over low heat.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with the olive oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, leak, and garlic, and sauté until it’s almost tender (about 6 minutes).

Add rice and stir until rice is translucent at edges but still opaque in center (about 3 minutes). Add wine and simmer until almost all of the liquid is absorbed, stirring often. (This will only take about 1 minute.)

Add broth 1 cup at a time until rice is about half cooked, allowing each addition to be absorbed before adding next and stirring often (about 9 minutes). Stir in asparagus, mushrooms, peas (if you have fresh), and parsley. Continue adding broth by cupfuls and stirring until rice is almost tender (about 6 minutes longer). Add peas (if using frozen). Cook until rice is tender but still firm to bite and mixture is creamy (about 2 minutes longer).

Remove from heat. Add 3/4 cup cheese and 2 tablespoons butter. Stir until cheese and butter melt. Season with salt and pepper.

Tags: dinner · italian · recipes · seafood

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kathy C // Apr 9, 2008 at 9:03 am

    I was wondering what you were up to this week. I kept checking on here wondering what wonderful creation you were whipping up. Alas, now we know.

    I have to admit I have only had risotto once. It was at a trendy Italian restaurant here in Omaha. I think it was 90% red onion. Not good for someone who doesn’t care for crunchy red onions. I think I may have to try this one. Would this be ok to serve with something other than fish? Maybe a chicken breast? I know beef would probably be to heavy for it. I just can’t stomach the thought of fish. Being brought up in Nebraska on a staple diet of meat and potatoes it is hard totally change the taste buds.

  • 2 Kirsten // Apr 9, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Oh no, crunchy red onion risotto?? Yuck!

    I would eat risotto with anything! You could do chicken or a steak. It’s a somewhat complicated side dish, so I would just keep the meat preparation simple.

  • 3 Annie // Apr 9, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    kirsten - are those your pictures?? they’re great!!

  • 4 Juan // Apr 10, 2008 at 12:41 am

    Kirsten, you’ll have to talk with my sister. She started making Risotto while she was still in high school and it’s become one of our family’s favorite comfort foods (right there with polenta). And the best part, she manages to do it with so few dishes (particularly good for me since I was in charge of the dishes if she cooked!)

    The pic on the main page is good. Nicely balanced with good depth of field but it would have really popped with a little more color, either on the plate or maybe even in the risotto! How about crunchy red onions? heh heh

  • 5 Kathy C // Apr 10, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Juan~ that was mean!!!!! No red onions. In fact, I make a motion that Kirsten puts nothing on her site that contains crunchy red onions. Anyone out there willing to second this motion??? Anyone??? Someone please speak up….

    Now, how to add color to the Risotto. Hmm, how about, well, ummm…. On second thought Risotto is just fine. How about a juicy red steak sitting next to it? That would be nice color. Yes, thats the answer.

  • 6 Kirsten // Apr 10, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    LOL! :)

    Thanks, Annie!

    Juan, I think your sister and I would get along great!

  • 7 Annie // Apr 10, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    mmm, when I first looked at that picture I thought it was SAUSAGE rissoto and I was thinking yum!! I guess mushrooms are nice, too. =)

  • 8 Cathie // Apr 15, 2008 at 6:06 am

    I am about to make risotto for the first time tonight, mainly for the same reason as you, Gordon Ramsey has scared me into it!!
    Your’s looks great and it’s a lovely photo.

  • 9 Rachel@fairycakeheaven // Apr 15, 2008 at 11:24 am

    wow sounds and looks divine I have to say

  • 10 Susan // Apr 15, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Today I somehow came across your site and this recipe. (Maybe off of TasteSpotting?) I love risotta, but getting a good one out to eat near us (suburb of Chicago) is not easy. I have had a couple good ones, some ok ones, and a lot of bad ones.

    Since I was heading to the grocery store today, I immediately added a few of the things I would need to the list. I made it for dinner when I got home and it was delicious! I also grilled a couple of chicken breasts with just a little olive oil, salt and pepper and they were great with it.

    I sure am glad I came across this randomly. It’s definitely a keeper. I am now looking forward to trying some other things you have one here!

  • 11 Kirsten // Apr 16, 2008 at 1:14 am

    Great! I’m so glad you tried it!

  • 12 Kelsey Vala // Apr 21, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    I’ve made risotto a couple times, but it’s hard to because I have to have Mom buy the white wine…

  • 13 Massimo // May 10, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Am Italian and a cook. Your recipe is nearly impeccable. Brilliant!
    What I would do:
    1. I would not use leek (you have already onions);
    2. I would add at the end also some chopped flat-leaf parsley, as a decoration and a bit worked into it;
    3. this is a “first course”; in Italian cuisine you are not supposed to add a brontosaurus steak just to make a meal-I would serve less risotto and serve separately the fish on its own as a second course…

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