[caption id="attachment_71" align="aligncenter" width="427" caption="Risotto Rustica"][/caption]
Risotto is among the best comfort foods and it only requires simple techniques and ingredients. The fundamental ingredient is rice.
Use approximately ¼ cup uncooked rice per person for a side dish, or ½ cup per person for a main dish. Vialone Nano, Carnaroli, or Arborio are the best choices for rice. Arborio is high in starch and commonly available. Carnaroli, also high in starch, has a firmer texture than Arborio and is resistant to quick cooking; it is considered the premier rice for risotto. Vialone Nano is a slightly shorter, thicker grain; it holds twice its weight in liquid, yet makes a slightly less creamy sauce.
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I was lucky to get some beautiful dried porcini. I tossed the porcini into a sauce pan with a quart of chicken stock, brought it gently to a boil, and then turned off the heat to let the mushrooms reconstitute and infuse the stock at the same time.
While the porcini were soaking, I assembled the remainder of the mise en place: about ½ pound of pancetta, diced; ½ a red onion, diced; 2 cloves garlic, minced; a generous portion of Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved. In addition, there was a bottle of chardonnay ready to hand, about four tablespoons of unsalted butter, and my secret weapon, a wonderful truffle and salt blend.
The basic technique for creating a really creamy risotto is pretty easy--don't stop stirring. It's very important that the liquid you'll be adding is at the simmer, and that you add about four times as much liquid as you do rice.
I started with the pancetta, added the onion until translucent, then the garlic, and finally the porcini. Whenever anything felt like it was sticking the least bit, I splashed a tablespoon or so of wine into the pan to deglaze. Once everything was cooked, I poured it into a bowl for later, added some nice olive oil to the pan, added the rice--about 1½ cups--and cooked it until white spots appeared, about 3 minutes.
At this point, it's a simple matter of continual stirring while adding up to ½ stock at a time; add a pinch of salt after each addition of liquid. When the stock is mostly absorbed, add more. If anything feels like it's sticking, deglaze with a bit of wine. I used about ½ cup of wine in total, and about six cups of chicken broth. For salt, I used the truffle and salt combo, a really wonderfully fragrant option.
When the rice is just done, it should be a bit toothy but not crunchy, add butter, cheese, cream, or whatever else you're finishing with. I used unsalted butter and ½ a cup or so of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Once incorporated, I added the pancetta, onion, and porcini mixture and dished it into bowls filled with arugula. A glass of chianti riserva completed the meal.