Like any other privileged humanities major steeped in a tradition of debauchery and literary pretensions, I am something of a lush. I enjoy everything about wine, and I enjoy it as often as possible in as many fashions as possible—in a shapely glass, accompanied by dinner and witty repartée or else just straight out of the bottle in riotous, piratical jubilation. And I like my wine like I like my hipsters—cheap and white.
One of my favorite dishes involving cheap white wine is risotto. For those of you who have never had the good fortune to taste this delectable food, a brief explanation: It’s basically rice, quickly sautéed with onions and butter and then simmered in a mixture of wine and broth until it becomes a creamy almost-porridge, tasting of salt and cheese and everything else good on this earth. It has a reputation for being somewhat fussy and fancy, but in fact, it’s not too difficult at all, requiring only 20-30 minutes of involved work time and using fairly simple ingredients that most cooks have on hand.
….Or so I thought. I’ve been meaning to make it for years, and I finally managed to do so for the first time this week. The hilarious roadblock to my risotto bliss? Try as I might, I couldn’t manage to have a half-cup of wine left over to cook with. And this is not to say I didn’t try. I’d open a bottle on Saturday evening, and it would vanish. Instead of risotto, Sunday dinner was regret and leftovers. But at last I managed to restrain myself, and squirreled away enough to make this recipe. I am so glad. And you will be too, if you make it.
Plain risotto is often served in small portions alongside a heftier meat dish, but let’s be real—that’s totally unnecessary. This stuff is EasyMac for gourmands, a heaping bowl of starch and fat and salt that makes a perfectly satisfying dinner all on its own. And pro tip: a glass of the same wine you cooked with makes a delightful accompaniment. I’ve decided that from here on out I’ll use up my first glass of wine on this dish, and not the leftovers.
This is the simplest form of risotto, without embellishment, but it’s a very flexible recipe. If you’d like to add any sort of meat or vegetables (bacon and peas are delicious, as is chopped roasted butternut squash), simply sauté them beforehand and then remove from the pan, then stir them in just before serving.
6-8 cups broth (chicken or vegetable are both acceptable)1 small onion, diced1 clove garlic, minced2 tbsp butter2 cups short-grain white rice (traditional risotto is made with Arborio rice, which is imported from Italy and hella expensive. If you want to pony up the cash for the real thing, then do it, but plain short-grain is pretty much just as good and a fraction of the price)½ cup white wine (try not to use anything too sweet—think more Pinot Grigio than Riesling)1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a small saucepan, heat the broth until just beginning to simmer. As it is heating, sauté the onions and garlic in the butter over medium-low heat in a large, straight-walled skillet, Dutch oven or pot. When the onions are translucent, add in the rice and stir to coat with butter. It should become slightly less opaque and smell toasty, but be sure not to burn it. When all the rice is coated, pour in the wine and let simmer until all alcohol has been cooked off. Now begin adding the warm broth, about 1 cup at a time. Let each cup of broth simmer slowly until the rice has absorbed—when it appears wet and silky but with no visible liquid, add the next ladleful of broth. This process should take about 15 minutes—don’t rush! Repeat this step until about 2/3 of the broth has been added. At this point, begin tasting the rice to check for doneness. When it is soft but still slightly chewy, it’s done. Add one more ladleful of broth, a few extra flecks of butter, the Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste (if you prepared extra meat or vegetables, add them now too). Stir to incorporate, and serve immediately.
Original Author: Clare Dougan