Basic risotto.

We have a Williams-Sonoma Collection cookbook (you know, one of those slim, almost square volumes they’ve published for years) devoted to risotto. We’ve had this since about 1996, and it is thoroughly abused: spine cracked, pages separating, the whole thing wrinkled from much spilling to the point where it barely closes. It is the source of our basic risotto recipe, which we’ve adapted in countless ways.

Risotto is something of a house specialty; I do all the prep work and Rob mans the stove, stirring, adding stock, stirring, stirring. We find it the perfect dish for our complementary culinary skills. Here’s our go-to recipe:

basic risotto

4 cups chicken stock
2  Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 1/4 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

Place the stock in a saucepan and keep at a gentle simmer while you’re cooking. In a heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat, add the olive oil; when it’s warm, add the diced onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until it’s translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with oil; cook until you see a white spot in the middle of the grains, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it’s almost cooked off. Begin adding stock about 3/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the stock is absorbed; when you scrape a spoon across the bottom of the pan, it will leave a path. You want the risotto to be “thirsty” before adding more stock.

The process of cooking, stirring and adding broth will take about 20 to 30 minutes, give or take. After about 20 minutes, begin tasting the risotto to see if it’s done. You want the dish to be creamy, with grains of rice that are firm but tender. If the rice has a bit of crunch when you sample it, keep stirring and adding broth. Cooking it too long will result in a mushy texture; don’t worry if you take it too far, as the risotto will still be tasty. With a bit of practice, you’ll get the perfect degree of doneness.