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 it’s not for vegetarians only. Balance the meal with a spartan side dish, like steamed veggies, rather than dressed salad.

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 (250 mL) water, as needed
4 oz (125 g) smoked cheese, cut in 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) dice
2 tbsp (30 mL) heavy cream (35%)
White pepper to taste
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped chives or slivered basil
1/2 oz (30 g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1/4 cup/60 mL)

In small pan, bring stock to simmer on back burner on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low.

Melt butter with oil in medium pan on medium heat. Add shallot and 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. Add wine to pan and stir until evaporated. Reduce heat to medium-low. Ladle in stock 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time, stirring often, until almost absorbed. Repeat. When stock runs out, heat water in same small pan until steamy. Continue adding water, as needed, until rice is al dente. (This will take 20 to 30 minutes. You won’t need all the water.)

Remove from heat. Stir in smoked cheese, cream, pepper and three-quarters chives or basil. Let sit 5 minutes. Adjust salt. Before serving, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and remaining chives or basil.

Makes 4 cups (1 L).

  • 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 like to use caciocavallo, a wonderful, rich melting cheese. Smoked mozzarella, gouda or cheddar are other options.
  • Traditionally, butter is stirred into risotto as a finishing touch, but I find that a dash of cream instead puts it over the top.
  • I’m not a fan of soupy risotto. If you are, use an extra 1 cup (250 mL) stock.
  • Always use top-quality parmesan in risotto. It’s best to measure by weight, as volumes can differ drastically, depending on the grating tool, the dryness of the cheese and the length of time it sits in the measuring cup.

Credit: Susan Sampson
Tested in Imperial