Lemon Risotto

Lemon Risotto is one of my all time comfort dishes. There is something about the creaminess of the risotto that just makes you feel warm and comforted. I have tried many different recipes for lemon risotto, and my all time favorite is from Patricia Wells’  Trattoria.

But no good risotto should be made without fresh stock so that’s where I started.  I always put the chicken carcass in a ziploc and into the freezer. Similarly, when cutting up vegetables, I put the extras and ends into a ziploc and into the freezer. This way when I run out of homemade stock I have ingredients ready to go.  

Vegetables, aromatics and carcass into a stock pot, cover with water and bubble away. Skim the foam from the top. I simmer mine until reduced quite a bit, strain and then freeze in cup increments so I can use it for whatever I need.

Okay. Stock done. Time to make the risotto. Rice used for risotto is very absorbent. This particular rice is broken into three types, semifino, fino, and superfino. There are generally three types used; (A) Aborio, which is superfino. It has a lot of serface starch which makes it give out more starch than it absorbs. It makes the rice dense and sticky and the grains can lose their shape while cooking. (B) Vialone Nano, which is semifino. This is the shortest in grain. This has a lot of internal starch which allows it to absorb a lot of liquid. This grain retains its shape – perhaps except the tips, and is a good choice if you are going to add chunky ingredients in. And, (C), Carnaroli – my personal favorite – which is also semifino. This is slightly longer and more delicate than the other two. It holds its shape. It has a balance of inner and surface starch, and absorbs a lot of liquid, which makes for a very creamy risotto.

Lecture over!

  • About 5 Cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • Sprig of fresh mint
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary
  • Sprig of fresh sage
  • Grated zest (yellow peel) of 1 lemon
  • 4 T (2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups Aborio, Vialone Nano or Carnaroli
  • 3 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) freshly grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for table

NOTE: I use carnaroli. I have tried all three many times and keep going back to the carnaroli.

In a large saucepan, heat the stock and keep it simmering, at barely a whisper, while you prepare the risotto.

Stem the fresh herbs. Combine the leaves with the lemon zest and, with a large chef’s knife, chop finely. Set aside.

NOTE:  I can go with or without the herbs and you can easily change them around to suit your taste. I used a bit of thyme this time around.

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 2 Ts of the butter, the oil, shallots, and salt over moderate heat. Cook, stirring, until the shallots are soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. (Do not let the shallots brown.)

Add the rice, and stir until the rice is well coated with the fats, glistening and semi-translucent, 1 to 2 minutes. (This step is important for good risotto: The heat and fat will help separate the grains of rice, ensuring a creamy consistency in the end.)

When the rice becomes shiny and partly translucent, add a ladleful of the stock. Cook, stirring constantly, until the rice has absorbed most of the stock, 1 to 2 minutes. Add another ladleful of the simmering stock, and stir regularly until all of the broth is absorbed. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. The rice should cook slowly and should always be covered with a veil of stock. Continue adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring frequently and tasting regularly, until the rice is almost tender but firm to the bite, about 17 minutes total.

The risotto should have a creamy, porridge-like consistency.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 Ts butter, the lemon zest and herbs, lemon juice and the Parmesan. Cover and let stand off the heat for 2 minutes, to allow the flavors to blend. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to warmed shallow soup bowls, and serve immediately, passing additional cheese. Risotto waits for no one.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

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