Prepare and lay out all your ingredients beforehand, you can’t stop stirring once you start cooking risotto, so you won’t have time to go raid the fridge halfway through.
When zesting lemons, you do not want to go too deep into the skin or you will start grating the pith, which is bitter. Juice the required amount from each of the fruit, strain it through a sieve and set aside.
Add half of the butter (60g) to the pan and a tablespoon of olive oil. The oil will keep the butter from burning and going dark.
Once the butter is bubbling hot, add the onions. Cook them until soft and translucent.
Add the rice and stir well. From this point onwards you are basically going to be stirring continuously. Make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies of the pot and scrape the rice off properly.
This stage of the process is called “tostatura” which means “the toasting of the rice”. It’s an important part, if you don’t do this properly you won’t get the required amount of starch from the rice and the consistency will suffer for it.
Basically we want to toast the rice on medium high heat for about 2 minutes, stirring vigorously. The rice should suck up most of the liquid in the pan.
Next, add the white wine. If you’ve done the “tostatura” properly you should already see the liquid in the pan becoming a little milky looking, that’s the starch coming out of the rice. Smell the steam, you should be able to pick up the strong smell of alcohol initially. When the smell of alcohol goes away (you’ll still smell the flavour of the wine, just not that strong wiff of alcohol) it’s time to add the citrus juice.
Pour in the juice and wait for it to be absorbed into the rice, should be about a minute or two.Once the juice has been absorbed, it’s time to start adding stock. At first you can add 3 ladles of stock (about 300ml) and continue stirring until that is absorbed. Next you can pop in the citrus zest.
You should also add a bit of seasoning (about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper) at this stage, so the seasoning gets absorbed into the rice.
You will be adding a ladle of stock (100ml) at a time, wait for it to get absorbed, and repeat. It will take roughly a minute per ladle. You do not want excessive amounts of liquid pooling above the rice, you just want to have enough in there to keep things nice and wet. Do not try to take shortcuts by adding all the stock and hoping it will all get absorbed. Take your time.
After about 6 to 7 minutes, you should start testing some grains of rice. You will notice that the colour of the grain has gone from the bright pearly white to a more grey and dull looking colour. As the rice cooks from the outside, you will see that bright white colour goes away in the edges, at some point you’ll only see a little dot of pearly white it in the middle of the grain. At that point you are nearly there.
This is the part that will unfortunately take a few attempts to master properly. You need to “feel” when the rice is ready to go off the heat. The problem is that it will continue cooking from the residual heat in the pan and will continue to absorb moisture, so you need to take it off the heat of the stove a little underdone and with some extra stock left in the pan. This will take a little practice to get right.
Also taste a few grains, if it’s still underdone, the rice will stick to your teeth and you might taste some dry bits. When that goes away you will still feel some bite to the grain, but not as sticky, and no dry bits. That means you are ready for the next stage.
The next and very important part is what the Italians call “mantecatura“. We will now remove the pot from the heat, add the remaining 60g of butter and the Parmesan cheese, and stir that through, sort of emulsifying the sauce and coating the grains with a rich buttery goodness. This will also bring together, season and balance out the flavours a bit.
Keep stirring for about 2 minutes until the butter and cheese has been properly incorporated. Taste and adjust final seasoning if need be.
To check if the risotto is the right consistency, tilt the pan a bit forward and give it a shake. It should be “all’onda” which means “to move like a wave”. If it doesn’t budge, it is too dry, try adding some stock to loosen it up. If it flops out of the pan it is too wet, try putting it back on the heat for a minute.
Put the lid on the pot and let it rest for a minute or two while you get ready to plate. Then serve with some citrus zest as garnish and some parsley. This is of course up to you, so be creative.
Reprinted with permission of Real Men Can Cook
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