If you’ve been on my site for more than five minutes, you know I’m a fan of the sandwich. The sandwich is extremely versatile. It can be made with any choice of combinations, served hot or cold, deep fried, baked and taken along with you wherever you go. Risotto has many of the same qualities of a sandwich and has the added bonus of being gluten free. It’s a great way to incorporate starch and vegetables into traditional entrees as well as letting the risotto be the star as in this lemon risotto recipe.
In Italy, risotto is generally served before the main meal; there are a few exceptions where risotto acts as a side. Here in the states, we generally don’t hold true when and where courses can be used. The word risotto refers to the dish created using a high starch, short grain rice. Common varieties found in the states are Arborio rice and Carnaroli. Carnaroli is perhaps the best and also slightly more expensive.
The most important aspect of the risotto lies in the cooking process. Ive had so many bad risottos because the cooking was rushed and the end result is a mushy, non defined mess. Risotto cooked properly will still retain the shape and texture of the rice. It should be creamy from the constant action of the stirring which helps loosen the starches on the rice. To accomplish this takes a little patience and a little know how. The most important step in making risotto is the toasting of the rice itself. Once the onions have become translucent and the rice is added, it is important to stir the rice in the fat and allow each grain to become covered. This will help slow down the cooking process slightly and allow you to create a creamier risotto.
If you’ve even seen Hell’s Kitchen, you’ll know that all Ramsay’s risottos seem a little runny. This is the French style of risotto, using a little more liquid. The Italian style is a little more viscous and little heavier on the starch. I like both, depending upon what I am serving either in it or with it.
This version is using the Italian style, if you’d like yours a little looser, then add a little more stock and butter.
Lemon Risotto with Asparagus and Pecorino
Makes 4-6 servings
- 3 Tbs. butter
- ½ cup yellow onion, minced
- 1½ cups Arborio rice
- ¾ cup lemon juice
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 7 cups stock (veg, chicken or miso) or water, heated
- 1 cup asparagus spears cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 cup pecorino + more for garnishing, shredded
- In a heavy bottom sautee pan, melt 1Tbs of butter over medium heat.
- Add the onions and sweat gently until they become translucent, taking care not to let any brown.
- Add the risotto and toast in the butter and onions, about 3-4 minutes.
- Deglaze with the lemon juice.
- Add the lemon zest and one cup of the hot stock.
- Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice begins to stick to the pan.
- Repeat this step five more times.
- Add the asparagus with the last cup of stock and continue cooking like before until the liquid has all been absorbed.
- Remove from heat, add the remaining 2 tbs of butter and 1 cup of pecorino cheese.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Serve warm as a side or on it’s own.
For different varieties of risotto, try adding a cup of corn juice with the last addition of liquid. For a tomato risotto, add tomato paste or a fresh tomato puree.
P.S. I garnished this with a little candied asparagus tips, good texture and counterpoint to the acidity of the lemon and pecorino.