On one of your visits to New York, I took you to my favorite Italian restaurant. As the waiter read the specials, I saw your eyes light up at “risotto.” You said, “I think I’ll order the risotto.” And I said, in my horrible arrogance, “No no, don’t get the risotto. They never have enough time to stir it properly at restaurants. You’ll have the handmade pasta, which this place is known for.” When the waiter came back, I ordered the squid ink tagliolini for myself, and as I started to order for you, you shouted, “And I’ll have the risotto special” — paired with the most devastating smile I’d ever seen. From that moment on, I knew I had met my match. And when I reached over eventually to taste your risotto, I was taken aback at how well-cooked it was, the care of an 18-minute stir, full of promise and potential.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup Arborio rice*
1/4 cup dry vermouth
2 cups chicken stock, kept on the heat at a gentle simmer
1 tablespoon butter
1 ounce blue cheese, especially Gorgonzola
Freshly cracked black pepper
*To be completely honest, 1/4 cup of rice (with less stock as well, 1 cup) feeds one just fine. I tend to despise risotto recipes because they seem always to stretch the realistic expectations of a normal human stomach. This isn’t restaurant food; it’s home food. But should you want leftovers or tend to eat on the heavier side, then 1/2 cup will be just right, you dirty heathen.
In a medium braiser or any wide-bottomed, moderately high-sided pan, sauté the shallot in a touch of olive oil until translucent. Stir in the rice, coating each grain until oil-slicked, 60 seconds max. Splash in the vermouth and reduce, stirring constantly. Once the alcohol has evaporated, lower the heat and slowly ladle in the stock (one or two ladlefuls at a time), stirring until fully absorbed by the rice between each addition. Keep stirring until the rice is perfectly al dente, or “to the tooth,” about 18 minutes. Cover for 5 minutes so it can finish cooking through.
For the mantecatura, all you need to do is whisk the butter and blue cheese into the risotto until smooth and glossy. Lots of black pepper at the end.