Do you need a fancy recipe for date night? A romantic dinner for two? Are your in-laws or boss coming over for dinner, and you need to impress? Periodically, Champagne Tastes will be featuring ‘Gourmet’ recipes. These will still be budget friendly and relatively simple, but will help you confidently serve a gourmet meal without hiring a chef.
How do you feel about rice? Have you given that much thought? (I can’t be the only one fixating on rice… right?) Personally, I think rice is delicious. I even love plain old white rice– add a little butter, pepper, and soy sauce– and you have an easy, if somewhat bland, side dish or snack. However, my favorite rice, the star of rice dishes, the rice dish that is not simply a background for your main dish, is risotto.
Risotto is a decadent Italian rice dish that is mysteriously creamy without containing cream (or any dairy at all).* The secret to an incredibly rich, delicious risotto, actually isn’t much of a secret. It’s simply time (some things shouldn’t be rushed) and low heat. Arborio rice, when cooked slowly, absorbs massive amounts of liquid and turns into creamy, tasty goodness. This recipe is for Lemon Risotto, and gets its seasoning from herbs, broth, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
What, you ask, do you serve Lemon Risotto with? My first instinct would just be to eat it solo. That’s right, it’s tasty, and I like it by itself. That said, whomever you’re sharing your meal with may expect a meal with protein, and the creamy lemon flavor works very well with seafood. Plus, seafood is FAST. Whenever you’re short on time, think seafood. Here, this is especially helpful, because it leaves more time to stir your slightly needy rice. Personally, I love this risotto with lobster, but it could also be served with salmon or any other quick seafood dish. Simply make sure your seafood is thawed, and begin marinating it before you start your risotto (or while the leeks are sautéing). Then, you can either begin cooking the seafood as you’re finishing the risotto, or cook it quickly when the risotto is finished (it should stay warm for a few minutes as long as it’s covered).
Whatever you do, if you’re going to make risotto, leave yourself enough time. Don’t rush the rice– leave the heat just under medium, and let the rice slowly soak up the broth. It will appear moist and creamy, and the rice will still be al dente. This ‘star of rice dishes’ is well worth the wait!
*Note: Traditionally, risotto does not have cream or other dairy products added, and this recipe is dairy free. However, if you don’t eat dairy, ask before you order risotto at a restaurant, because a lot of non-traditional risotto recipes have cream or cheese mixed in.
Need more ideas for your fancy-pants party? Try these:
Serves 8 as side dish, 4 as main dish
- 2 TB olive oil
- 2 TB minced garlic
- 1 leek, sliced (or substitute 1 sweet or yellow onion, diced)
- 2 tsp dried thyme or rosemary
- 1 1/2 cups dry Arborio rice (this one matters- substituting other kinds of rice will have varied results)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 - 5 cups vegetable broth
- 1 lemon (zest first, then juice)
- ~1 tsp turmeric (for color, omit if you don't have)
- 8 - 10 fresh basil leaves (or 1 - 2 sprigs of fresh thyme)
- 1-2 tsp salt, to taste
Heat broth in saucepan until warm, and then keep covered on very low heat.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a heavy sauce pan over medium heat. Add leaks and garlic. Saute about 3 minutes until the leeks begin to go translucent. Add dried thyme or rosemary and stir.
Add the rice and stir 1-2 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low. Add white wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until wine is completely absorbed (4-5 minutes). Ladle over 1 cup (or less) of broth, and stir on low until it's completely absorbed. Repeat until all your broth is gone. Don't rush these steps- you want the rice to slowly release the starch and become creamy. Rushing will result in less creamy risotto.
Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt. Add turmeric (don't go overboard on this spice- you just want to add enough to give the risotto a nice lemon-yellow color). Add fresh basil or thyme and serve while still hot.
Pairs well with seafood.