Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Easy and Quick Risotto

I've been thinking about Risi e Bisi since Great Lent. When something gets ahold of your mind and won't let it go, that's a sure sign that you should cook it! Last night we went to the new South Indian vegetarian restaurant in Savannah (it was GREAT, so it won't last long, I'm sure), and as I was looking at their rice dishes, I was reminded again of risi e bisi, so I decided right then and there that was on the menu tonight. But then I got stuck at work... and risotto takes so LONG to cook....... When I got home, though, I knew it was time to try pressure cooked risotto. I was worried - would it cook al dente or get mushy? would it stick on the bottom? would it clog the vent? Well, it was absolutely FANTASTIC! I don't think I'll be held captive endlessly stirring a hot pot of risotto ever again - I am SOLD on this method of cooking risotto! If you don't own a pressure cooker, go out and buy one just so that you can make risotto - its worth it even if that is all you ever cook in it.

Pressure Cooked Risotto with Peas (Risi e Bisi)
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (or a mixture of olive oil and butter if not lent)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 C Arborio rice
1/2 C dry white wine
3 C hot broth (homemade is best!)
1 C or more frozen peas, defrosted
1 oz parmesan, freshly grated (optional)
1 1/2 tsp salt if using unsalted broth, otherwise, to taste
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp dried basil

In the pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute a couple of minutes until it is softened. Add the salt and pepper to taste (go easy because you can't take it out), the basil and the rice and cook, stirring, for about a minute until the grains are glossy and coated with the oil. Raise the heat slightly and splash in the wine. Stir until the wine is mostly absorbed by the rice, just a minute or two. Pour in all but a half cup of the hot broth, stir well and turn the heat to high. Lock the lid in place and bring the pressure to high. Once the pressure is reached, cook for 5 minutes. When done, release the pressure. Unlock the lid and put the defrosted peas on top and place the lid on top again without locking in place to let the peas steam for about a minute. Remove the lid, pour in the remaining broth and cheese and stir well. Taste for seasonings and serve.

Serves two as a main dish, or four as a side dish.

Five stars from both of us!

Notes: There is a culture war going on in Italy over Risi e Bisi - should it be thick like sticky rice? should it be thick like risotto? Should it be soupy? I like it risotto style, so that's what I made. If you like it really thick, then put all the broth in at once. If you like it soupy, then add an extra half cup of broth.

I used homemade vegetable broth. In my freezer, I have a large plastic container that holds about 1 1/2 quarts or more. Every time I peel a potato or a carrot, or snap some green beans, or cut the stems off zucchini, or peel an onion, I put everything in there. Every last bit of vegetable trimmings goes in. Once its full, I put the frozen contents in a pot along with a bay leaf and water to cover and simmer for about an hour or two. Then I strain and freeze the broth. I've found that lots of onion tops and skins with lots of potato peels make for a yummy broth, but I've never had a bad tasting broth and some of the combinations have been ..... well.... a little unexpected, like the potatoes and brussels sprouts, or the rutabaga and mushrooms...

Leftover risotto is a wonderful thing. Truly, it is. It thickens up like polenta when it is refrigerated, so you can form it into patties and fry them in butter for lunch. What's not to like about that? Even shoe leather would taste delicious if it was fried in butter! Alas, we have no leftovers.... 1 Cup of rice is just perfect for the two of us as a main dish. My hips are very glad.

About Arborio Rice: Although Arborio rice is the best known type of risotto rice in the US, it is actually one of the "lesser" rices in Italy. Carnaroli rice is the preferred rice in Italy, followed closely by Baldo rice. I love risotto, and I love Arborio rice, but its only been available here in the deep south for the last year or two. I've made very acceptable risotto with a store brand medium grain rice, so if you can't find the real thing, go ahead and give it a try. Arborio rice has a high gluten/carb content which is what gives the creamy consistency to risotto, and it cooks through but retains a toothsome, or al dente, quality that marks a good risotto. I have found that the cheapo medium grain rice is a very reasonable substitute, but is not quite as good. Go for the real thing if you can get it.

Risotto rices also come in white and brown, though I cannot get brown Arborio here. If you have a chance to try brown Arborio, go for it - its delicious, with a slightly nutty flavor that is indescribable. I'm told that it takes exactly 19 minutes to cook a brown rice risotto. If you try this, please let me know how it came out and what the timing for the brown rice was.


Elizabeth said...

I have wondered about brown Arborio rice! I've thought, you know, surely there must be brown Arborio rice but I've never seen it, even in the natural foods stores I shop in, where there's dozens (well, at least A dozen) varieties of brown rice. I wonder where you would get such a thing?

When I first made risi e bisi, it was presented as a risotto, and indeed was the first risotto I made. I love it as risotto and love other risottos as well. Very homey and comforting.

Denise said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Another risotto lover! We must unite to spread the word! Have you ever tried it in a pressure cooker? I was totally amazed at how good it came out, and after only 5 minutes..... I don't think I'll ever make it the old way again. It came out so well that I'm planning on trying rice pudding in the pressure cooker as well - I will post how my experiment comes out.

About brown Arborio rice. I bought it a few times in California - at Whole Foods Market in Palo Alto and at Cosentino's in San Jose. But now that I live in the deep south, there are many things I cannot get here. It was a victory for civilization when I finally found Arborio in the better grocery store! Oh yes, my mom and I (Memory Eternal!) were grocery shopping at Publix a couple of years ago, and there was much singing and dancing when I saw it! I actually bought three of them, because who knew when I'd be able to buy it again? Now I can get it at Krogers as well, and quite honestly, neither Publix or Kroger are that good when compared to the markets in California.

Anyway, I'll probably try rice pudding over the weekend. Happy risotto making!


Elizabeth said...

Hi, Denise,

I don't own a pressure cooker, and I've never made it that way. Maybe I'll have to be on the lookout for one. I've heard you can do amazing things with them! I think I wouldn't like how it removes the cooking process from sight, though. I remember that from my parent's pressure cooker when I was growing up. I like to be able to look and stir and smell and pierce.

Huh, I never saw brown arborio rice in any of those good grocery stores while living in California! Not in San Francisco or anywhere else. I never shopped in Palo Alto, though. Maybe if I went to the Whole Foods there. I remember seeing it! Now I live in Portland, OR, which seems a good place to find natural, healthy foods, but perhaps not the upscale kind of place that Palo Alto is. Ah, well, I'll keep looking.