Given the chilly weather, shorter days and darker nights, comfort food season is at the top of everyone’s mind lately, and while many look to mac ‘n’ cheese or casseroles for hearty satisfaction, most forget that risotto is every bit as rich and decadent as those classic picks. This creamy, cheesy, Italian rice-based dish has been given a bad rap — some claim it’s too tedious to prepare at home — but Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian is on a mission to dispel that culinary rumor once and for all.
Catching up with fans at the 2013 New York City Wine & Food Festival last month, Geoffrey assuaged fears of cooking risotto from scratch — something he’s deemed “the final frontier” — explaining, “It’s nothing more than rice …. It’s not that much work …. It’s just a technique.” He broke down that technique during his live culinary demonstration preparing a mushroom-lobster risotto, and he noted that the payoff promises versatile recipes and can-do results. Read on below to hear from Geoffrey and learn his top tips for mastering risotto at home.
10. If you’re new to cooking risotto, stick with a basic recipe featuring chicken stock, cheese and olive oil.
9. Opt for a pan that offers enough surface area to cook the rice. Whether you use a large skillet or deep pot, just be sure there’s ample space for the rice to meet the heat.
Get the top-eight tips
Risotto is perfect for a special weekend dinner. Until I started working in the test kitchen here at Food Network, I would have never attempted it for a weeknight dinner. That was until Katherine Alford (Vice President Food Network Test Kitchens) introduced me to risotto made in a pressure cooker.
I was skeptical at first. Using a pressure cooker cuts out one of the most important steps: stirring and slowly adding hot stock, coaxing the starch out from rice to make a creamy, luscious risotto. But I gave the pressure cooker a try one Monday night and had risotto ready for dinner in 25 minutes. It wasn’t far off from its traditional counterpart: creamy, toothsome and took only a fraction of the time and effort. Here is how a pressure cooker works: The steam given off by liquids in a well-sealed pressure cooker is trapped, and as pressure builds the temperature rises significantly compared to normal stove-top cooking. These higher temperatures cook food evenly and quickly.
Tip: Be sure to read your manufacturer’s instructions before using your pressure cooker for the first time.
The first time I made risotto was with a friend. She pulled out her heaviest cast-iron pot and unearthed a well-worn wooden spoon that was bent ever so slightly. Its curve had developed over many years of use and it fit her hand perfectly. In order to preserve its form, she kept it hidden away so that well-meaning family members wouldn’t accidentally run it through the dishwasher or use it to encourage the blender to blend.
We started by chopping onions and sweating them in a puddle of melted butter until they were translucent. Then the rice went in and the heat went up, so that the individual grains would become slick with the butter and begin to toast. Just when the room began to smell impossibly fragrant, she poured in white wine, causing a puff of boozy steam to hover over the stove for a moment.
Then we started the process of stirring and adding hot chicken stock. The time went quickly because we were together, catching up and taking turns minding the pot. However, even in the joy of that moment, I could see how some people might find the necessary stirring a tedious act. That night, we finished our risotto with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, peas (from the freezer but still tender and sweet) and cubes of salty ham. With a salad, it was a complete meal and one we both enjoyed.
A few weeks back, my husband and I were having friends over for dinner. I was making grilled salmon and a chilled asparagus salad and needed one more thing to serve. Awash in deadlines and errands, I needed to find something easier than a classic risotto, but more refined than a simple pot of rice. Internet searches led me to Ina Garten’s recipe for Easy Parmesan “Risotto.”
Before you preheat your oven, read these tips
No need to keep an eye on this risotto. Just add rice, wine and broth to sautéed garlic and onions, and let the oven work its magic for 15 quick minutes. Mix this creamy concoction with butter, smooth fontina cheese and fresh herbs and vegetables for a rich and satisfying fill-you-up dish.
Add a light Endive and Pear Salad from Food Network Magazine to round out this go-to weeknight meal.
Note: Make sure you use vegetable broth instead of chicken.
Get the recipe: Roasted Cauliflower Risotto
Meatless Monday, an international movement, encourages people everywhere to cut meat one day a week for personal and planetary health. Browse more Meatless Monday recipes.
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The new year brings a fresh start and new challenges — especially in the kitchen. We asked you via Twitter what recipes you wanted to learn to cook this year, and there were a few common themes. Perhaps you’ve stumbled on some 2011 cooking trends — could 2011 be the year of Pad Thai? Risotto? Here are a few of our favorite tweets, and some recipes to get started on your culinary goals. Read more »
- Janet Johnston cooks spiced-up dishes on her new show, Spice & Easy
Janet Johnston’s road to Food Network started two years ago, when Pat and Gina Neely headed to Denver for an episode of Road Tasted with the Neelys. They stopped in at Savory Spice Shop, which Janet owns with her husband, Mike.
The Johnstons and the Neelys hit it off right away, and since then Janet and Mike have guest-cheffed on episodes of Down Home with the Neelys and Paula’s Best Dishes. It soon became clear that Janet’s delicious spice-inspired food deserved a show of its own, and the idea for Spice & Easy was born. The new show premieres tomorrow morning at 9:30am/8:30c.
The Colorado shop owner and home cook films in her home kitchen as well as in the nearby Denver outpost of Savory Spice Shop. Janet couldn’t be more excited to share her love of spices and cooking with Food Network fans: “We’re having a little viewing party with our employees…It was my husband’s excuse to buy a 55-inch TV!”
To get to know FN’s newest star, read our 20 Questions for Janet Johnston.
1. What are five spices everyone needs in their pantry?
Can we eliminate salt and pepper? That just has to be a given; they are such important ingredients! Okay, then I’d start with a really good fresh ground cinnamon. I don’t know if this is cheating, but seasonings and blends are really important—I’d do an Italian herb blend and a paprika-based barbecue blend. A really good vanilla extract. Lastly, a good seafood blend like some kind of a citrus pepper or garlic pepper—a pepper-based blend. Those are some great basics that will get you there. I carry almost 500 products so this is really hard for me!
2. What did you have for dinner last night?
I made leftovers with my carrot risotto. Wow, I’m glad I made a good dinner last night…if that was my frozen pizza night I would have been embarrassed! I made the risotto two nights ago for dinner, so with the leftovers I made patties that I folded around mozzarella cheese. I floured and panko-breaded them and gave them a light fry. Mike had three of them and they were the size of burgers!
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