I love risotto. Risotto can be made from a variety of different rice grains, but arborio is the most common one. You can usually find arborio rice in most grocery stores; it is usually near the other grains of rice (long grain, brown, etc.) and the couscous. Typically, the rice grains are heated in oil or butter until browned, and then stock is added, bit by bit, until the rice has soaked up all the liquid. What you end up with is a delicious, creamy rice. I just wish it wouldn't take so long to cook. For those who are patient enough, the end result is always worth the wait.
This is a great recipe for the goat cheese lovers out there. The basil complements the goat cheese well, and I think you could easily substitute chicken for the shrimp if you are not a seafood lover. Or, omit the shrimp altogether and use vegetable broth for a nice vegetarian side dish.
I have only made risotto a handful of times, and I know how nervous I was making it the first time. So I have a few tips for those who are making risotto for the first time. As you are boiling off the liquid, make sure your heat is set to low-medium. The heat should be high enough that your liquid is at a very low boil, but not so high that it is at a rolling boil. If your heat is too low, and there is no gentle boil, your rice will not cook. You will taste test it and see that it is not done, continue to add liquid to it, and the rice will continue to soak up liquid without cooking, leaving you with a soupy mess of uncooked rice (I know this from experience - ha!).
Make sure you do not add your cheese until the very end, just before serving. If you add it too early, your risotto will become grainy and oily because the heat acting on the proteins of the cheese will cause release of the oils contained in the cheese. Again, leaving you with some not so great tasting risotto.
To determine when your risotto is done, move it all to one side of your saucepan and give the saucepan a shake. The risotto is ready when it relaxes and settles some after shaking. If a lot of liquid runs away from the rice, it needs to cook a bit longer. You'll also need to do a taste test, similar to checking pasta to see if it is al dente. The rice should be soft but not mushy, and there should be very little crunch left to it. If it is hard at all, continue to cook it a little more.
Shrimp and Goat Cheese Risotto
from Food & Wine
1 quart chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
3/4 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice (8 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
1/4 cup soft fresh goat cheese (1 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer. Add the shrimp, cover and simmer over moderate heat until just cooked, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a plate to cool. Cover the stock and keep it at barely a simmer.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the garlic and onion and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until it is coated with oil, about 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1 scant cup of the simmering stock and cook, stirring constantly, until it is absorbed. Continue to add the stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until it is absorbed. The risotto is done when the rice is tender but still slightly firm and creamy, about 25 minutes total. Stir in the shrimp. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the basil, goat cheese, Parmesan, ginger and lemon zest. Season the risotto with salt and pepper and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.