I have a risotto conflict. I love the traditional dish - made with arborio, carnaroli or another short-grain white rice that swells up and combines with the cheese and butter to get so wonderfully creamy. But like so many other health-conscious cooks, I'm also trying to favor whole grains whenever possible. So I've broken with tradition and made risotto - or should I call it "risotto"? - with barley, farro and more.
Recipe included with this story: Butternut Squash and Sage Oven Risotto
What I haven't done, perhaps surprisingly, is kept the "ris" but used a whole-grain one: brown rice.
That is, until now. And I can tell you, it's a good idea. As instructed by Sarah Britton in her new cookbook, "Naturally Nourished," I chose short-grain brown rice for its extra starch, which she assured could give some (if perhaps not quite all) of that creaminess. I threw in a rind of pecorino Romano cheese, which Britton promised would reduce the need for much, if any, cheese to be added at the end. She was right on both counts.
Besides broth, salt and the requisite aromatic vegetables, the only other ingredients are butternut squash and a good dose of sage leaves. And there's no reason you couldn't use any seasonal combination of vegetable and herb you desire: mushrooms and thyme, say, or eggplant and oregano.
In another break with tradition, Britton has you bake the risotto rather than cook it on the stove top, saving you the stirring - although that requirement of risotto-making has always been exaggerated. The tradeoff: She suggests you open the oven a few times, uncover the pot and check the liquid level, adding more broth if needed, which prevents this from being a walk-away-for-an-hour affair. But guess what? When I tested it, no extra liquid was required at any of those checks. I'm not sure if I got lucky or what, but the next time, I'm going to leave it alone and see what happens.
- Joe Yonan of The Washington Post
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