How many things can you do with rice??

Rice is a pretty amazing thing. Obviously, there are quite a few different kinds, and each of the different types gets handled in a slightly different way. Although there is quite a bit of overlap in the methods the differences can make a big difference. Various cultures have different ways of handling rice. These can depend on the type of rice, as well as what other foods are available. Think about the number of rice preparations that spring to mind. Pilaf, fried, boiled, sushi rice, polow(a middle eastern method), baked, risotto, just to name a few.

Tonight Amy and I decided to have risotto. It is fairly quick, very easy, and very tasty. It is also extremely versatile! Almost anything you want to eat with your risotto can be used to flavor it. Tonight we had some asparagus in ours. I have had pancetta, sausage, mushrooms, shrimp, and saffron. Really, whatever you feel like can be used, but if you use something like sausage make sure to cook it before you start the rice.

So, what do you need to make risotto? Not that much really.

Arborio rice, or a similar short-grain rice
double (maybe a little more)the amount of rice of water/chicken broth/veggie broth
fine diced onion
wine (optional, but nice) usually white, but reds can be used!
vegetable oil
grated asiago or parmesan (and by parmesan I do NOT mean that crap in the green can!)
salt and pepper
That is it, really, aside from whatever you want to put in it. With the asparagus, I cut it into bite-sized pieces. This part you will have to kind of decide how to deal with it on a case by case basis. Saffron, for example, goes into the liquid when you heat it up. Cooked sausage would get stirred in at the end, as did the asparagus.

You will need two pots. One will have the broth or water. Bring this up to a boil, and then turn it down to keep it fairly hot. The second pot is where all of the action takes place.

Heat your second pot, and add the vegetable oil. Once you see that it is hot, add the rice. Using a wooden spoon or a spatula stir the rice. This coats the rice in oil, and helps create the proper texture. When you smell a toasty, nutty aroma, and the outside of the rice has become clear you are ready to add the onion.

Once the onions have cooked, and are more or less clear start adding liquid. You would add the wine first if you are using it. Then add the 1/4 of the broth. When do you add more liquid? When you pull the spatula across the bottom of the pan, and the rice sticks to itself and leaves an empty spot in the bottom.

Keep stirring the rice, and adding more broth as it needs it. After you have added broth a third time, taste the rice. You want it to be tender, but each grain should be distinct. At this point you should also adjust seasoning, such as salt and pepper. If it needs to cook longer, keep checking. With the asparagus I added it with the last liquid. This would give it time to cook, and still have a nice color. Once the rice is tender, and the liquid is absorbed remove it from the heat, and stir in the cheese. The rice should have created its own creamy sauce(for lack of a better term), and the cheese will add to that. I try not to go overboard with the cheese, but I also want to have plenty!

So, there you have it, risotto. You always thought it was hard, and took a long time, didn’t you? It does take a little time, but it is certainly not hard to make, and it can be a nice light meal, or a side in a hearty meal. You can even make it into an amazing appetizer that will amaze your friends and family. They are called arancini. They are little balls of risotto, you bread them, and then fry them. Add a little tomato sauce, and you are set. I made them for a party, and used gluten-free flour, and Rice Chex to bread them. It worked great, and everybody loved them!

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