Risotto is trendy, turning up on menus all over town gussied up with goodies like truffles and wild mushrooms and presented as if it were a princely dish.
The truth is, its roots are among the humble folk of northern Italy. Winter is the season for risotto, which somehow tastes better when you can enjoy standing over the steaming saucepan and stirring for the half hour or so it takes to render the rice creamy.
VERY BASIC RISOTTO
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine
1 2/3 cups vegetable broth, heated to boiling
1 1/3 cups water, heated to boiling
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Melt butter in deep heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and saute until kernels are coated, about 30 seconds.
Pour wine into hot broth and add enough of mixture to rice to cover kernels by about 2 inches. Cook, stirring constantly, adding more as liquid is absorbed.
When all broth is used, begin adding water in same manner. It should take between 30 and 40 minutes for rice to absorb all liquid. Risotto should be creamy and tender, more like dense porridge than rice.
Remove from heat and stir in cheese, mixing rapidly to distribute well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.
Add 1 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads to hot water before stirring into rice.
Stir in 1/2 cup raw, freshly shelled snap sugar peas at same time as cheese. Hot rice will cook peas.
Season cooked rice with 2 teaspoons fresh, minced mint after cheese has been added.
Note: Arborio rice is available at gourmet specialty stores. Sometimes it is labelled risotto rice. Broth made from bouillon cubes or powder may be substituted for vegetable broth.