Saturday, November 22, 2008

Brown Rice Risotto

You can make risotto with brown rice. It's delicious. It's healthy. It's harder to overcook than arborio because you'll always have tooth from the bran, but it can be just as creamy. It takes a little longer so it helps to plan ahead a little, but you don't have to actually do anything for most of it... and if you have a pressure cooker* it goes even faster. It doesn't have to look as emphatically brown as it does in the pictures; that's just from my mushroom broth.***
Recipe: Brown Rice Risotto

You do need to find short-grain brown rice, generally Japanese, because long- or medium- won't give off the starches you need. I've been able to buy it at a variety of grocery stores; if it's not in the regular rice section it's usually in the pan-Asian section.

2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cups short-grain brown rice [I use Nishiki brand]
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth [don't use Martini & Rossi; their dry vermouth has an off flavor for cooking]
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth [divided use]***
1 Tsb fresh herbs or 1 tsp dried [optional]
1 cup veggies [optional]
1/2 cup good Parmeasan, grated
at least 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper or to taste

Saute onions in a large pan, pot, or small Dutch oven over medium high heat until onions begin to become translucent ~5 minutes. In a separate pot or in the microwave, heat 5 cups of stock until steamy [near boiling]. Add rice, stir thoroughly to coat with oil and saute until they start to pop, another 3-5 minutes. [You'd usually cook the arborio until it becomes translucent but that doesn't work with brown rice.] And garlic and stir until fragrant, ~1 minute. Pour in wine or vermouth and scrape up any stuck bits [called "fond"] from the bottom of the pan.

Stir off and on until almost completely evaporated, then add 5 cups of stock and stir until it starts to boil. Add herbs, if using, cover pot, and reduce heat to medium low/low. Cook 50 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure rice is just barely boiling. Meanwhile, blanch or saute veggies, if using, and set aside.

As the time on the rice winds down, heat the remaining 1 cup of broth. Uncover rice. At this point, it should look fairly standard brown rice with a little extra broth... some of this is actually starch. Turn up heat to medium and stir frequently until broth is almost gone, then add 1/2 cup of the remaining stock and, again, stir until broth is almost gone. [At this point you may think you have a lot of liquid left, but most of it is your delicious risotto starchey goo. The way I tell is by scraping the bottom of the pan with a (heatproof) rubber spatula. The rice and goo should fill back in the space as one; if liquid fills the space before the rice, you've still got more to go.]

Add last 1/2 cup of stock, any veggies, salt, and pepper. Stir well, etc. Off heat, add the parm, stir to melt, and check for seasoning. Serve hot, topping with additional grated parm and cracked black pepper.
*If you have a pressure cooker, reduce total stock to 4 1/2 cups. Add 3 1/2 cups to rice after cooking down vermouth. Seal and cook at pressure for 20 minutes. Continue with directions above using remaining 1 cup stock.

**My favorite is to make a mushroom stock by nuking 1/2 an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of water for 3 minutes. Strain out solids, mince, and throw back into stock. Add a tablespoon of soy sauce for extra umami and use hot water for the balance of the liquid component. This is great base for a variety of earthier risottos, but is fantastic with roasted or sauteed baby bella [cremini], button, or sliced portabella mushrooms as the veggie. Use thyme for this variation. Thyme and mushrooms are beautiful together.

You can use any chicken/veggie stock you like, just make sure it's something you'd be willing to eat as soup. You can also puree part of your vegetable component and add it to the stock at the beginning of the covered cooking time. This works great with asparagus. I puree the big fat ends for the stock and save the prettier tops to add at the end.

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