Get a load ‘o risotto

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Sports - Terry Bursey

It’s said that Ital­ians have a way with words and a bet­ter way with cook­ing starches.

Pasta is a fa­mous prime ex­am­ple, but of course the real primo ex­am­ple (that’s an epic dou­ble pun, be­lieve it or not) is so good that in Italy it’s of­ten con­sid­ered the es­sen­tial starter for a full meal set. Risotto’s cheesy, creamy, del­i­cate and ver­sa­tile flavour is so beloved in the culi­nary com­mu­nity that an in­abil­ity to make one is of­ten cited as the mark of a true ar­ma­ture (pies be damned).

To say that I wanted risotto one evening would be an un­der­state­ment. It was much more of a need than a want. I’m a man of sud­den crav­ings and when I was smack in the mid­dle of con­ver­sa­tion with a co-worker at an Oram’s Re­tire­ment home in Gambo one evening, risotto was the food that my brain com­manded me to make. There was a sticky wicket with that sce­nario, how­ever; I was cer­tain that none of the el­derly res­i­dents of the home would be pleased by an ex­otic dish that they most likely had never heard about be­fore in their en­tire long lives.

As I of­ten do, I kicked my prover­bial cook’s self­ish gene aside and re­sumed my plans to make that night’s Jiggs’ Din­ner. It wasn’t long af­ter that a friendly res­i­dent named Percy came up to the kitchen nook and asked for a ba­nana, as he of­ten did. He re­ally wasn’t en­cour­aged to eat them at the home but I al­ways had a hard time deny­ing my el­ders any treats, es­pe­cially healthy snacks.

Non­cha­lantly he asked me about the food I was speak­ing about ear­lier. I ex­plained to him as best I could about risotto and the next ques­tion he asked me was if I could make some for him as a lighter sub­sti­tute for sup­per. I grinned.

That was all the ex­cuse I needed to make: 3 ½ cups chicken stock 1 ½ cups bas­mati rice ½ cup of white wine 3 tbsp but­ter 1 tbsp veg­etable oil ¼ cup parme­san ¼ cup ched­dar, shred­ded 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped 1 cup fry­ing ham, diced ½ cup red onion, chopped Salt and pep­per to taste


Heat stock in a medium saucepan by bring­ing it to a sim­mer and re­duc­ing the heat to low. In a large, heavy-bot­tomed saucepan, heat the oil and 1 ta­ble­spoon of the but­ter over medium heat. When the but­ter has melted, add the chopped onion, ham and spinach. Sauté for 2 to 3 min­utes or un­til onion is slightly translu­cent. Add rice and stir with a wooden spoon un­til it is well coated. Add wine and cook un­til all liq­uid is ab­sorbed. Con­tinue to grad­u­ally add stock 1 la­dle at a time and stir con­tin­u­ously un­til all is ab­sorbed. Add re­main­ing in­gre­di­ents and stir all to­gether un­til smooth and sticky. Re­move from heat. Serve in bowls or use ramekins as molds for plat­ing.

The true risotto method is a bit te­dious (as you prob­a­bly just dis­cov­ered) but the re­wards are in­tense. Ar­bo­rio rice is also the go-to grain for any risotto but I per­son­ally pre­fer to sub­sti­tute some bas­mati for a quicker cook time and a sweeter grain. Luck­ily, I al­ways seemed to have a lot of free time at the homes I worked in be­cause of the ease of labour in­volved for a pro­fes­sion­ally trained cook and there was plenty of al­lot­ted time for a risotto that night. Percy got his risotto right around the same time that the rest of the res­i­dents ate their Jiggs’ and I ate mine right along­side him.

Buon ap­petito!

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