Before he headed back to Carmel Valley, Chef Cal shared one more recipe with me. This risotto is sort of a “base recipe” that can be prepared in a ton of different ways. At my birthday party, he added wild mushrooms and served it under tender slices of roasted duck. During a spring visit to the Bernardus Lodge, we had it with fresh peas, and for our wedding, we chose to have it topped with white truffles.
When I made this recipe as an appetizer for a recent dinner party, I decided to use ingredients that I had on hand. I ended up with a colorful combination of roasted cherry tomatoes, basil, and wild mushrooms. On top of being delicious, I was able to make it with items I already had in my kitchen, and it was relatively simple to prepare.
I think that the tough thing about risotto, and why it intimidates a lot of people, is that it really does need constant attention when it’s on the stove. What makes it do-able for me is to have all of my ingredients prepped and measured ahead of time (and of course, have a glass of leftover wine in hand-did I mention it’s one of the ingredients?). If I do this extra step in the beginning, I find that I can add the ingredients quickly as they are needed, which makes doing risotto much more manageable.
2 tbs olive oil
½ medium onion (finely diced)
1 cup carnaroli rice (or Arborio rice)
4 cups hot chicken or vegetable stock
¼ lb unsalted butter
¼ cup parmesan cheese
¼ cup white wine
1 wooden spoon
Heat oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add rice and stir slowly. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the wine. Stir over rapid simmer for 2 minutes. Keep stirring to maintain the even cooking of the rice.
Add stock a little at a time, keeping a soupy consistency. The whole process should take about 15-18 minutes for carnorali rice (3-5 minutes less for Arborio). Cook until “al-dente.”
Remove from heat. Add butter and cheese, stir in briskly to emulsify, adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve in a warm bowl with along with sautéed wild mushrooms and garlic (or whatever other ingredients you would like to add).