Eating what you grow is probably the most satisfying aspect of being a farmer.
So, I’ve been experimenting with risotto recipes with the rice grown organically on the farm — it’s perfect for risotto!
This week, we had a dinner with the Grosseto chapter of the National Young Farmers Association. My friend, Francesco, who grows grains and makes craft beer, came over to experiment with a beer-based risotto recipe.
Making risotto is an interactive experience.
It is definitely not a science.
It is unlike cooking regular rice where you can add water and keep it the stove top for 20 minutes unattended.
Cooking risotto requires constant attention.
The recipe that follows is not precise but gives options depending on how bitter you like your beer, how “al dente” you like your risotto, and ingredients that you have available.
Maremma Beer Risotto
— Risotto rice (Tenuta San Carlo’s variety is Archimede; you can also use Carnaroli or Arborio)
— Olive oil
— Shallots (onions are fine as well), finely chopped
— Light vegetable stock (a simple stock cooked for an hour beforehand with celery, carrots, and onions will do; using store-bought is also an option and not a crime)
— Beer (the range is quite large; if you want a less bitter taste, go for a blond. If you want a stronger beer flavor, go for amber)
— Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (store-bought grated parm in this case is not ok!)
I normally have little patience for recipes that go on for pages and aren’t in neat lists and steps with precise amounts and cooking times. But, like many things Italian, making risotto is not a straightforward process.
So, I’m going to explain this in paragraphs.
You can blame Italy!
Pick a pot or a pan that gives you a good amount of bottom surface area and can handle three times the amount of uncooked rice you begin with.
There are five basic phases to making risotto.
1. Making the “soffrito”
Heat some olive oil in your pot and add the shallots or onions. Stir and cook until they are transparent.
Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil and keep it at a low boil.
Add the rice to the pot to “toast” it. This is important. Stir the rice into the shallots or onions and let it toast a bit (do not burn it!). (For the amount of rice, I measure two medium handfuls per person plus an extra handful per every four people.)
Before adding any cooking liquid, you are going to add some beer to “smoke” the rice (in most normal risotto recipes, this is where people usually add white wine). Keep on stirring that rice until all of the liquid has smoked off.
This is the main “cooking” phase. You should add enough boiling stock to completely cover the rice. Once you start seeing bubbles form, start stirring again.
Now you are going to keep on adding liquid a little bit at a time so that there is always enough liquid to just barely cover the rice. You can start adding beer if you want a stronger beer flavor (recommended!) or keep on adding boiling stock. Here the imprecision is at its most notable; you can add stock or beer depending on how much beer flavor you want. I would recommend 50/50 beer/stock.
You need to basically be constantly stirring in this phase.
Start tasting the rice after about 12 minutes of cooking time. I like my risotto like my pasta – “al dente”; that is, still a bit hard and definitely not over cooked. Most risotto rices cook in 15-18 minutes but it varies greatly depending on the variety and the amount being cooked.
You will have to turn the heat off before the rice is fully cooked because it will cook a bit more – a couple of minutes – during the “mantecatura” phase.
Remove the rice from the heat and add a healthy dose of butter and some of the grated parmesan to the pot. Stir the butter and parmesan into the rice, cover the pot, and let it sit for a 3-5 minutes.
Remove the lid and the risotto is ready to serve. Add some grated parmesan to taste if you’d like. We found that the bitterness of the risotto is nicely offset by soft cheeses like stracchino or taleggio.
P.S. Let me know how you would tweak this recipe – it is definitely a work in progress!