We’ve all had dreadful risottos. You know the kind that comes congealed on your plate like a stiff pudding, with every mouthful an overcooked mush. Most of the time these taste of nothing but generic cheese. You want a glossy, loose pool of risotto. When you ladle it to the center of the plate you want it to gently spread into a thin layer. You want it to still have a bite, and you want it to be light and you also want it to be creamy. It’s a plate of pure delight when done right. And it doesn’t need some protein protagonist to sit on top of it, let it be by itself.
To learn to make a good risotto one needs to go out and sample good risottos. When I was in culinary school I regularly ate out as part of “research”. You need to know what good tastes like. That is why I hate making dishes I have never tried because I don’t know what a good version is meant to taste like. Go out and eat a few good risottos, and then when you make one at home, make it with confidence, patience, love and a strong arm because it’s a lot of stirring.
Serves 4 as an appetizer
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 large bulb fennel, thinly sliced
300g risotto rice (such as arborio or carnaroli)
1 glass of white wine
1l vegetable broth
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 orange
50g of grated parmesan, or to taste
1 generous nob of butter
Keep the stock in a pot over high heat, it should be boiling during the whole cooking process
Fry the shallot in 2 tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan over gentle heat until translucent – do not let color. Then add the fennel slices and fry for a few more minutes.
Add the rice, turn up the heat and stir and coat the rice in the mixture, and continue to stir for a few minutes before adding the wine, and again, stirring continuously for a few minutes until it’s all absorbed.
Then add a ladle of hot stock and simmer, stirring continuosly until it is almost all absorbed. Then repeat the process by adding another ladle – you may not need all of the stock, keep tasting the rice until it is al dente. When it is cooked to your liking, stir in the zests. Then remove from heat, add the parmesan and butter and stir vigorously. Serve with some fennel fonds.