Friday, September 10, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends: Stress Over Dinner for Guests

I think at some point and time, we realize that we have to invite people over for dinner.  Maybe for a slightly fancier dinner than just grabbing a pizza or layout out some chips and salsa.  We want to impress but we don't want to stress ourselves out so much that we miss out on the whole point of having our friends over... we want to enjoy their company.

I'm going to let you in on my favorite "company" dinner. Risotto.

Risotto is the perfect meal for when you are having guests over.  You can easily make a large batch.  It's easy to make and you can flavor it in a number of different ways.  You can prepare it bit ahead and keep it warm on the stove.  And by pairing it up with a steamed or grilled vegetable and maybe a salad, you have a beautifully presented meal.

Risotto even sounds a bit fussy and fancy but, here's a secret... it's just rice!  Okay, it's really creamy tasting and amazing rice but it's not very complicated and you can't really mess it up.  Plus it can be very inexpensive to make, which let's you have friends over more often.  

Depending on how many people you are planning to have over and what you are pairing with it, this recipe will easily serve 4 - 6 dinner portions. 

What you need is Risotto rice, a medium yellow onion, stock (homemade!!!), about 2 Tbls of olive oil, white wine and salt and pepper.  You can add any combination of other ingredients such as saffron, mushrooms, peas, asparagus whatever you want, really.

Risotto takes a bit of time but it's not complicated.  The slow cooking and slow additions of the broth are what creates the creamy texture with almost zero fat.  You don't need to add anything such as butter or cheese to accomplish the richness that risotto is known for.

Begin by chopping the onion into small, not quite minced pieces.   In a wide and deep pan, saute this in the olive oil about 7 minutes until the onions are soft.  Add 2 Cups of the risotto rice to the pan and cook that until the rice is a bit translucent with a white dot in the center, about another 5 or so minutes.  Add a 1/2 Cup of white wine to the rice and the onions and let it absorb into the rice.

While your onions are cooking have the stock warming over low heat in another pot.  I like to have about 8 cups on hand. You are going to be adding the stock to the rice about a 1/2 cup (or a good ladle-ful) at a time, slowing letting the rice absorb the liquid each time before adding more.  Stir the rice a bit after each addition and make sure to scrape along the bottom of the pan.

Once the rice has absorbed all of the stock and is completely soft, usually this takes about 30 - 40 minutes, add in any additions.  If you are adding in mushrooms or a vegetable I would recommend cooking them separately and stirring them into the cooked risotto.

And that's it!  Plate and serve.  Here is our dinner from the other night - risotto and steamed broccoli.

And here is a fancy dinner out - mushroom risotto served with grilled asparagus.

Even if you are not having people over, make the same amount. Risotto stores well and is even better the next day.   You can reheat it or you can even form the chilled risotto into small discs and fry them to serve on the top of or on the side of some tender raw or cooked greens.



French Bean & Coffee Bean said...

Wow. That looks reeeeeeally yummy.

Kudos to leaving the three-oh-five, by the way. ^.^

-Barb the French Bean

Annah said...

I love risotto with shrimp. They make the best one here at the Gables in this restaurant called Cacao. Well, it was. THey closed (they were too expensive). Yours looks SUPERB! Bon appetit.