April 30, 2014

Smoked Cheese Risotto

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No one said risotto was diet food. Then again, no one said you can’t treat yourself. This luscious risotto is vegetarian, but carnivores will certainly enjoy it as a meatless meal. Balance the richness of cheesy risotto with a spartan side dish, like steamed veggies, rather than dressed salad.

       Sinful risotto with smoked cheese. Credit: Susan Sampson


3 cups (750 mL) low-sodium vegetable stock
1 tbsp (15 mL) each: unsalted butter, extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1 cup (250 mL) arborio rice
1 tsp (2 mL) or more kosher salt
1/4 cup (125 mL) dry white wine
2 cups (500 mL) water
4 oz (125 g) smoked cheese, diced (1/4 inch/0.5 cm)
2 tbsp (30 mL) heavy cream (35%)
Ground white pepper to taste
2 tbsp (30 mL) slivered basil or chopped chives
1/2 oz (15 g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1/2 cup/125 mL)

In small pan, heat stock on high on back burner. When stock comes to simmer, reduce heat to low.

In medium pan, melt butter on medium heat. Add shallot. Cook, stirring often, 1 minute, or until softened. Stir in garlic 20 seconds. Add rice and 1 tsp (5 mL) salt. Cook, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes, until well-coated and slightly toasted. (Do not brown.) Meanwhile, zap wine in microwave 20 seconds, or just until steamy. Stir wine into rice until evaporated. Reduce heat to medium-low. Ladle in stock 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time, stirring often, until almost absorbed each time. When stock runs out, heat water in same small pan on high until steamy. Continue adding water, as needed, until rice is al dente. (Total cooking time will be 20 to 30 minutes. You will have water left over.)

Remove from heat. Stir in smoked cheese, cream, pepper and three-quarters basil or chives. Let sit 5 minutes, or until cheese is molten. Adjust salt. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Garnish with remaining basil or chives.

Makes 4 cups (1 L).

  • I’m not a fan of soupy risotto. If you are, use an extra 1 cup (250 mL) stock.

Shopping Cart: Choose your vegetable stock wisely – some commercial ones taste far too carroty. Non-vegetarians can substitute chicken stock (which I prefer in risotto). Any kind of smoked cheese will work. I prefer caciocavallo, a wonderful, rich melting cheese. Smoked mozzarella, gouda or cheddar are other options. Always use top-quality parmesan in risotto.

Tool Time: It’s best to use a weigh scale to measure parmesan. Volumes can differ drastically, depending on the grating tool, the dryness of the cheese and the length of time it sits and settles in a measuring cup.

Kitchen Secrets: Traditionally, butter is stirred into risotto as a finishing touch, but I find that a dash of cream instead puts it over the top.