Risotto is my favourite dish to prepare. It's a stress-free, one-pot meal, and perfect for entertaining a few friends. While the need for constant stirring does keep me tethered to the stove, I can easily juggle that with talking to my companion(s) and sipping from a glass of the remaining white wine. For me, cooking risotto is one of life's simple pleasures.
Lemon risotto is the newest addition to my repertoire. I found the original recipe in Stephanie Alexander's "The Cook's Companion". Stephanie's prescribed quantity of parmesan makes the meal sickeningly rich; in my experience only a small 'garnish' of parmesan is required. Diners can easily add more parmesan to taste.
Ingredients (for three to four people as a lone dish)
1.5 litres chicken stock*
300 mL dry white wine
120g unsalted butter
1 small onion, very finely chopped
600g arborio rice
Freshly-grated parmesan cheese, to taste
Finely-chopped fresh parsley (at least 3 tablespoons)
* I use Massel's "chicken style", all-vegetable stock powder, but you can prepare your own from scratch. Some commercial stock powders are overly salty, so be careful.
To ensure the process is stress-free, prepare as much as you can before you start cooking. Make up the chicken and wine stock, juice and zest the lemon, chop the parsley, grate a small quantity of parmesan (I use less than a handful, generally) and weigh out the unsalted butter. Divide the butter in two, keeping the halves separate, and chop each into smaller pieces for easier melting.
Heat the stock and wine in a saucepan. In a heavy-based, deep, non-stick frying pan (or pot) melt half of the butter over gentle heat and sauté onion until softened and translucent. Add rice and raise heat to moderate. Stir to ensure rice is evenly coated with butter. Add 1 cup of stock (I add two soup-ladle's worth). Simmer, stirring constantly, and add 1 cup of hot stock at a time as the liquid is absorbed, making sure that the rice is always just covered. Taste the rice after 15-20 minutes. It should be soft with the merest "nuttiness" in the centre of each grain. I generally find the rice isn't ready until all of the stock and wine is added/absorbed, but be careful not to let the rice become gluggy.
When the rice is ready, remove the pan from heat. Add a small amount of parmesan, the remaining butter, parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir the ingredients through, making sure the melted butter has distributed evenly. Serve immediately.