Risotto is one of those fabled dishes that’s impossible to get right unless you stand over the pot stirring consistently for hours on end. True, risotto is a fairly hands on and I wouldn’t suggest washing your hair while your risotto cooks on the stove, however, it is easier to multitask in order to prepare an entire dish in the time that your risotto has to cook.
I love risotto because of its versatility. It can be made rich enough to be a starter or hearty enough to stand alone as a main course. Risotto is a great dish to have up your sleeve. It’s always an impressive dish to make and is appropriate for any season because it acts as a vehicle for vegetables, meats and cheeses.
Summer Risotto with Morels, Asparagus & Fresh Oregano
Serving Size: 2-4
Total Time: 45 Minutes
Difficulty: Medium: ability to multitask is a must
- 3 medium saucepans
- 1 medium sauté pan
- a cutting board
- a sharp knife
- a ladle
- a wooden spoon
- 1 collander
- 2 cups dry Arborio rice
- 1 quart chicken stock (use vegetable stock or water to make vegetarian)*
- 1 small bunch asparagus, cut into ½” slices
- 1 tbs butter, plus 1 tsp
- 1 small yellow onion, small dice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- ¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms (optional)*
- 3 slices surryano ham, small dice (optional)
- 1 bunch of morels, cleaned and sliced in half
- 3 oz pecorino cheese, grated
- 1 bunch fresh oregano, minced
- salt & pepper to taste
In one of your medium sauce pans, add your chicken stock and heat over medium low heat. You want your stock to be hot, but not boiling so that when you add it to your risotto it doesn’t cool your risotto down and it keeps cooking at the same temperature the whole time. This will ensure even cooking and you shouldn’t have to adjust the heat under the risotto while it’s cooking. *If you’re using water instead of stock I would suggest also adding the dried porcini mushrooms to the water to give it flavor. You can add them to any stock as well if you’d like your risotto to have more of a mushroom flavor. To use dried porcinis, add them to your stock or water and let them sit at room temperature for 10-20 minutes. Heat stock or water as instructed before adding it to the risotto. I don’t suggest using the mushrooms in the risotto, so when you are ladling your stock into the risotto, be careful that you don’t bring the mushrooms with you.
In another medium sauce pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the onion and stir so that every piece is coated. Sweat the onions over medium heat until they have softened slightly. Add risotto to the pan and stir until combined. Add your white wine and cook down until almost all of the wine is gone, but it is not completely evaporated. Turn you heat down to medium low. Add one full ladle of warm stock into your risotto and stir. In order to let the risotto cook properly, add the stock one ladle at a time, only adding the next one once the previous one is almost gone. You will use all of your stock. Stirring helps the Arborio rice release its starch, which is what causes risotto to thicken. You don’t need to stir the risotto the whole time, however, it is important to check the bottom with your wooden spoon to make sure none of the rice is sticking or burning. Your risotto should never be boiling. It should have a light simmer which produces a few small bubbles. If your risotto is bubbling, turn down the heat. Your risotto should be fully cooked in 20 minutes.
While the risotto is cooking, and you are sporadically stirring it, bring 4 cups of well-salted water to a rolling boil in your third sauce pan. Once boiling, add your asparagus. Cook the asparagus for 2 minutes or until it has turned bright green and has softened slightly. Drain it immediately and run under cold water until completely cool. Set aside
Melt 1 tsp of butter in your sauté pan over medium heat. Add the morels and cook just until they have released all of their water and have softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
At this point your risotto should be thickening and you should have 2 ladles left in your pot. Stir the risotto a bit more vigorously now, making sure that all of the grains are absorbing the stock. Taste your risotto. If the rice is still crunchy, you’re not done. Although risotto should be slightly al dente, crunchy rice means it’s still raw.
Once you have added all of your stock cook the risotto down until it has thickened and there is no liquid left. Taste it again. If it is still crunch you can add one more ladle of water. If the rice is cooked, add the pecorino (saving a bit for garnish) to the risotto and stir until completely combined. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Add the asparagus, morels, surryano ham (if using it) and oregano and stir until just combined. Plate and garnish with your saved pecorino.