Whether it's because of the dish's finicky reputation or else from fear of making it "wrong," risotto isn't something that most of us cook at home. But here's a dirty little secret: risotto is fairly easy to adapt to your own personal taste and it's actually quite quick and easy to cook at home. David Tanis's recipe in his new cookbook, One Good Dish, is a fine example. He's relaxed about risotto technique; one needs only to check and stir the pot every once in a while, adding stock as needed. By using a few good ingredients (saffron, stock, and wine), he elevates the rice without adding anything to the recipe's workload. And to please every type of risotto eater, Tanis asks for cooks to reserve a bit of broth to loosen up the rice if needed upon serving. It's up to you to make it as thick or as soupy as you'd like.
Why I picked this recipe: While far from revolutionary, Tanis's risotto exemplifies the concept of simple, good cooking.
What worked: When it comes to risotto, simple is good, and it doesn't get much simpler than a lemon and pinch of fragrant saffron.
What didn't: No problems here.
Suggested tweaks: I served the risotto with a bit of broccoli sautéed in olive oil to round out the simple meal.
Reprinted with permission from One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal by David Tanis. Copyright 2013. Published by Artisan Books. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup short-grain Italian rice, such as arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano
- Small pinch of saffron, crumbled
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 4 cups chicken broth, heated
- Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tablespoons butter
- About 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, season, and cook gently until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and saffron, stir well to coat the rice, and let sizzle a bit. Allow the onion to color slightly, add the wine and a good pinch of salt, and cook for 1 minute.
Add 1 cup of the hot broth, stir, and adjust the heat to maintain a brisk simmer. Stir frequently as the rice absorbs the liquid. When you see little sinkholes on the surface of the rice, it is time to add more broth. Do this every 5 minutes, stirring in 1/2 cup chicken broth each time. The total cooking time should be 20 minutes or so, and the rice grains should still be a bit al dente.
Add the lemon zest and juice and the butter. Taste a spoonful to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Add a splash more broth if the risotto seems too stiff. Stir in the grated Parmesan and serve in shallow soup bowls. If you prefer a more soupy risotto, as I sometimes do, ladle a little extra broth into each bowl.