Oh risotto, how I love you. Some might consider its need for frequent stirring to be a burden, but with all those aromatics, I think it’s a privilege and a pleasure to stand over the pot and stir. There’s a reason why risotto is popular restaurant food. It’s good stuff. I always mean to save some leftovers so I can make arancini (fried risotto balls), but I never have any leftover. The good news for home cooks is risotto is not difficult to make at all, and doesn’t require much more than diligent stirring and good ingredients. The Brandy is so aromatic and the nuttiness of the brown butter is heavenly with the juicy shrimp and starchy rice. I always have all the ingredients in my kitchen so I can have risotto whenever I desire. Here’s how to make it:
4 cups chicken stock (stock, not broth. More on this below)
3 tbsp butter
1 cup finely chopped red or yellow onion
1.5 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup Brandy liqueur
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (real parmesan, aged 2 years)
1/4 cup chopped Parsley, Chervil, or Basil
1/2 pound of shrimp, lobster, or other shellfish
First we need to talk about stock vs. broth. That Swanson stuff in a box…take a look…does it say stock or broth? Most likely it is broth, and broth is not the same as stock. Broth will not have the deep flavors that real chicken stock has. You can make your own, or you can buy a good one. Look at the color of this one by Kitchen Basics. It’s a rich dark brown color, not a yellowish clear color. You can tell just by looking at it that it’s good stock:
Okay, time to proceed with the risotto making! In a medium pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Put the lid on to keep it hot (you never want to add cold stock to hot risotto).
In a large and wide saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Once melted, cook the butter for a couple minutes until it turns brown. The butter is first going to foam a bit, then it will take on that brown color you want. You see the white foamy stuff? Those are the milk solids, and they burn very easily. The most important thing to do when browning your butter is to make sure you don’t walk away from it. Why do we brown butter? Browning butter gives it a nutty character, which tastes gooooood.
Add the onion and cook for 4 minutes, just to soften slightly. We are building the aromatics! Add the rice and stir for 3-4 minutes (we are toasting the rice…smell how aromatic it is)! Add the Brandy and simmer until it evaporates, about 3 minutes. Add a few ladles of stock to the rice, just enough to cover the surface of the rice.
Stir until the stock is absorbed, then repeat the process, until the stock is all gone (this should take about 15-20 minutes). Now, taste the rice. Does it taste crunchy at all? If it does, add more stock if you have it. If you don’t have more stock, add white wine. If you don’t have any white wine, add water. Remove your risotto from the heat, and beat in the parmigiano, 1 tbsp of butter, and desired herbs with a wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Enjoy your risotto! And make sure to experiment with different ingredients (and tell me what you have tried and liked)! Thanks for reading! Please leave questions, comments, or suggestions below.
Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ Brown Butter Risotto with Lobster recipe.