It’s pretty cool to have a signature dish and for my kids that means risotto. They never seem to tire of making or eating it. Here they are last night collaborating on a super cozy version with Italian sausage, peas, parmesan and cheddar cheese finished with lemon zest, fresh parsley and drizzle of good olive oil! They decided on the flavors and then totally surprised me by needing very little help aside from my hanging around to serve as safety monitor (this mind you is after a dozen or so attempts where they were able to do more and more each time.). It’s been a nice strategy for them to focus on just one dish and really figure it out… and a pretty great feeling for me to stand back and watch my little people knock out this killer meal.
What are your family’s signature dishes?
The crazier life gets, the more I am won over by the versatility and ease of risotto. It’s serious comfort food, endlessly adaptable and an old standby that can be pulled together last minute with ingredients I almost always have in my pantry (arborio rice, chicken stock, an onion, a hunk of parmegiano reggiano) and jazzed up with a few bits of whatever else is around. While stove-side stirring is required, it somehow feels less stressful than recipes that require a lot of chopping or ingredients…. or thinking!
Before I get to some notes on risotto, here are three of our favorite variations:
- Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice, Peas — Some Diced Roast Chicken or Sauteed Shrimp Would Be Nice!
- Crumbled Sausage; a Can of Crushed Tomatoes Mixed with Broth for the Cooking Liquid; Fresh Spinach for Garnish (chiffonade)
- Roasted Garlic; Toasted Sliced Almonds & a Dollop of Mascarpone (gotta give credit to Jamie Oliver for this one. Here’s his recipe)
Stacie’s Risotto Crib Sheet:
- Bring your stock to a simmer (you’ll need ~2.5 cups for every cup of uncooked arborio rice). [Since I had some asparagus I wanted to use up, I just trimmed it and blanched it right in the stock for 2-3 minutes until tender crisp, then set it aside.]
- Saute some finely diced onion and celery in olive oil until softened. Add the uncooked arborio rice to the pan and saute for several minutes until it starts looking less chalky and more translucent.
- If you have some available, add a splash of white wine (1/2 cup or so) and let it completely absorb before starting to add the stock (if you don’t have any, you can skip it without sacrificing too much). Then, start adding the warm stock one ladle at a time, stirring until the liquid is completely absorbed between each addition. My Italian cooking guru Marcella Hazan says to start checking the rice for done-ness after about 20 minutes.
- When you’re getting close to your preferred done-ness, add your goodies [in this case the zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 1.5 lemons, a handful of frozen peas which I didn’t bother defrosting].
- Off heat stir in a generous amount of grated parmeggiano and a little pat of butter if it strikes your fancy. Taste taste taste and correct your seasonings. [I scattered my blanched asparagus on top. For a little zip, I also garnished with some finely chopped chives, crispy fried sage leaves (nice for texture and takes the intensity way down), a little squeeze of lemon and drizzle of good olive oil.]
Unfortunately, my little one objects to most green foods lately and picked around the peas & asparagus with determination– even after we made happy face bites on our forks — but my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this dinner of creamy, lemony, comfort food yumminess which we enjoyed with some crispy fish fillets and sauteed asparagus. Yum yum good!