Butternut Squash Risotto with Leek and Shitake.

Many tricks in cooking and baking—those two mystical practices that happen in at the Altar of the Kitchen—are less tricky than they would appear, or have been built up to be. Pie crust, biscuits, rice on the stove, the perfect sear; these are all tricks that done correctly once, with just the right timing, temperature, and seasonings, never need be learned again. Granted, all cooking and baking is just the right amount of timing, temperature, and seasonings. However, the big secret is, the simple things are really quite easy. If you spend time mastering the technique at first, you’ll have delicious, homemade goodness forever. (Forever is a long time. Filled with more pie if you start practicing now.)

Risotto, that perfectly creamy, nutty, rich comforting Italian porridge, is just the kind of thing to master early. To whip up a risotto is easy, and it will never fail to impress. There are just a few things you need to make a phenomenal risotto—rice, chicken broth, a shallot, and some parmesan. That’s it. (Butter is a given. Always.) Throw in a crack of pepper and a dash of salt, and an elegant, filling risotto is just a half hour away. Honestly. But in that half hour, many magical things take place.

The broth is warmed, the shallot is minced and sautéed, the rice is toasted, and the parmesan is swirled in. To make risotto, all you have to do is follow a simple recipe. Once you’ve done that, a whole world of wonderful, creamy rice dishes open up. Throw in a leek, a squash, a handful of bacon. Toast up some cauliflower in a little curry powder, chop some roasted pistachios and finish off a pot. Risotto welcomes all additions, and it’s all the more delicious for it.

It’s the kind of recipe you should memorize, internalize, and cook every time by feel. A full recipe is on the following page, but below is a paragraph that, if you really desire a perfect risotto, you should simply take to heart, and repeat over and over.

Bring 4-6 cups of chicken stock to a simmer and then cover, turning off the heat. Mince a shallot and sauté in the bottom of a Dutch oven in a dab of butter until translucent. Throw in a cup of Arborio or Japanese rice to the shallots and toast over medium heat, about 2 minutes. Add one cup of the hot broth and stir with a wooden spoon until the broth is fully absorbed into the rice, about 4-5 minutes. Continue with a cup of hot broth at a time until a creamy emulsion covers each grain, and the rice is cooked with just a bit of bite, about 3-5 more cups of broth. Remove from heat and stir in a bit of parmesan, crack some pepper. 

Note: @kwiezcner pointed out a true gap in this risotto ode: white wine. She recommends splashing in a bit just after toasting the rice, and right before slowly adding the broth. I wholeheartedly agree. 

Recipe on the following page.

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