Saturday, November 6, 2010

No-Stir Risotto

arborio rice I love creamy risotto, inundated with Parmesan or Romano cheese, herbs, maybe even some meat and veggies. But all that stirring! Slow cooking is all well and good, but that’s a lot of standing around. Then you have to add more stock and stand around some more. Stirring. Over and over.

There is a solution!

Arborio rice cooked with stock and other lovely things in a pressure cooker takes less time overall, and the result is quiet creamy and tender. The cheese and herbs are added at the end.

No-Stir Basic Risotto

In a 6 or 8-quart pressure cooker, heat 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 small onion or shallot, minced, and 1 clove minced garlic if you want. Cook for about five minutes until softened but not brown. Stir in 1 cup Arborio rice until it is coated with the butter and oil. Pour 2 cups of chicken stock over the mixture.

Lock the lid of the pressure cooker in place and bring the cooker up to full pressure over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook at even pressure for 7 minutes. Follow your cooker’s instructions for how to do this. I have an old-fashioned version with a rocker valve on top. As long as it’s slowly rocking I know things are on the right track.

After 7 minutes, remove the pressure cooker from the heat and release the pressure quickly. For some that means pushing a button. For me it means running cold water over it in the sink. Stir in 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (or in my case, two BIG handfuls) and some chopped herbs. I used rosemary since we were having lamb. You can also cook the rice with ham, asparagus, browned mushrooms – you get the idea.

What? You don’t have a pressure cooker? Get thee to a Bed, Bath and Beyond! Or Target. Or wherever. Seriously, there is nothing better for slow food fast on a busy weeknight – especially in the winter. Soups, stews, roasts, anything you’d braise all day in the oven, grains, ethnic dishes, and cheaper cuts of meat all do very well in a pressure cooker.

I know a lot of people are leery of them, and they can indeed be dangerous if used improperly. Keeping them pristine and carefully maintaining the seals is important. There are several models where you can set the psi (pounds per square inch) and some have steam-release valves and timers. For the plainer versions, read the instructions carefully.

Stay away from cooking barley, cereals, applesauce, rhubarb, or pasta, as these foam and can clog the works – bad news. Contrary to popular belief, you can cook beans in a pressure cooker. You have to add extra water and olive oil, plus keep the quantity low, but it does work.

Add a little extra time at high pressure if you live at altitude. The rule I’ve heard is 5% for every 1000 feet. So I cooked my risotto for about 9 minutes, and it was tender and creamy.

If you’re just starting out, a really good pressure cooker cookbook is a must. Go beyond Porcupine Meatballs! One I like is 200 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes by Cynda Chavich. It contains unusual and classic recipes both, with a large vegetarian section and good suggestions for converting conventional recipes to the pressure cooker.

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