I used to be afraid of making risotto. Watching Hell's Kitchen had convinced me it must be a terribly complex dish of the kind that could reduce professional chef's into quivering tearfilled balls of goo. That was a misconception. Making risotto is incredibly easy (I wouldn't lie to you), although perhaps more difficult when doing it in bulk and partially cooking it prior to a restaurant shift. Just to be sensitive to the poor Hell's Kitchen contestants I will say that making risotto at home for personal consumption is easy peasy, and certainly worth trying. For me it is now a winter meal staple, both as a meal in itself and as a side. I can make lots and serve it for a dinner party, or I can use it to use up tasty leftovers (like pasta). I just love the creamy carby goodness, and that it tastes like it is made with buckets of cream when really there is no cream to be found in the recipe!
Spinach and Goat Cheese Risotto (as a large meal for 2-3):
1 cup Arborio Rice
1 half an onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 cups of chicken stock heated to boiling
1/4 cup white wine (optional, but nice)
about 2 cups of loosely chopped spinach (or as much as you like - this is where you could put in anything you want to flavor with, squash, mushrooms, chicken, asparagus etc. but if it should be precooked unless like the spinach it will wilt by being stirred in for 1-2 minutes)
2-3 tbsp of crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Heat the oil in a large deep pan, and saute the onions for 2-3 mins (until clear). Add in the rice and stir so it is coated in the oil. Cook it in the oil for 1-2 mins. Add the wine if you choose and stir until it is absorbed. Start stirring in the stock about 1/2 cup at a time and continue to stir with a spatula as the rice absorbs the liquid. Stirring is the magic in risotto. It keeps the rice from sticking to the bottom and lets all the starches come out to create the "creamy" effect. You don't have to stir the entire time, but most of the time is advisable.
The tricky part is that you have to taste the risotto to know when it is getting close to done. I would say that in my house, with my stove, I end up taking 20-35 minutes just depending on how high I have the heat. You will know it is close the way you know pasta is (no, not by throwing it at the wall), in that it will still have a bit of firmness, but no longer be crunchy. Think of it as rice al dente. When you feel like it will need only one more addition of broth, put your flavoring agents in so that they warm up and get nicely mixed in. Finally, when the last of the liquid is absorbed, stir in the parmesan to take the creaminess over the top.
Oh delicious comfort food! How would we make it through 6-8 months of winter without you?