Risotto is one of those old-time comfort foods that I grew up on. It was prepared by my Northern Italian grandfather who was so fussy about how it was made that he didn’t trust anyone to get it right except himself. My mother’s sister, my aunt, watched him carefully as he made the risotto in a big copper kettle, and after my grandfather passed on, she was the keeper of the “secret” of how to make a good risotto. And she was the one who continued the tradition of making it for us.
By watching my aunt make this simple rice dish I too learned how to make a “good” risotto. Without a lot of details here, let me just say it required lots of stirring, and adding the hot chicken broth in small amounts until it was absorbed, then adding a little more, and so on…. Risotto also needed to be flavored with saffron which gave the rice a light yellow color, and enticing aroma and flavor.
Although we all loved risotto, it was not made frequently, because it was labor intensive beginning with stewing a whole chicken to get the rich broth needed to cook the rice. All the meat was saved and stirred into the rice at the end of its cooking time, making this dish very filling and hearty. My Dad particularly loved my aunt’s rice, rather unusual for a Swede, but you can’t account for a person’s taste, and like him, I love it too.
With this back story in mind, you can imagine my delight when I came across this recipe for risotto, baked in the oven, and no lengthy stirring required. Well, I was all over that recipe like flies on a dead pig!!
I made it for the first time this week. Mr. D. thought it was marvelous and I thought it was great, too. The addition of broccoli that is roasted in the oven while the rice bakes, then added in at the end with cheddar cheese, produces a tasty, cheesy and filling main dish. I treated it as a side dish, and served it with sliced ham. Not quite the same as the risotto I remember, but certainly a rendition that I plan to make again.
Times and cooking methods change. More and more of the old ethnic dishes are being modernized and fused with new ingredients, so that what was once old is new again. I, for one, like this trend.
BROCCOLI-CHEDDAR OVEN RISOTTO
Yield: Serves 4
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
- 1 bunch broccoli, cut into small florets
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 3/4 cups arborio rice
- 1/4 cup white wine
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 oz.)
1. Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 425*F. Bring chicken broth to a low simmer in a saucepan.
Toss the broccoli with the olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet.
2. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes.
Add the rice and stir to coat.
Pour in the wine and cook until evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the hot both, 3/4 tsp. salt, and pepper to taste; bring to a boil.
3. Cover the pot and set on the bottom oven rack. Place the broccoli on the upper rack. Bake, stirring the rice and broccoli once halfway through cooking, until most of the liquid has been absorbed in the rice and the broccoli is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
4. Remove the rice and broccoli from the oven. Add 3/4 cup hot water, the remaining 1 Tbsp. butter, and the cheese to the rice and stir until creamy (add a little more hot water to loosen, if necessary). Stir in the broccoli.
SOURCE: Cooking Light