Recipe Monday: Jessica’s Caramelized Onion Risotto

April 27, 2009 § 3 Comments


As soon as I found out that risotto didn’t actually require constant stirring, I was on board.  As I’ve said before, I have an almost unnatural attraction to all things creamy, custardy, puddingy and starchy.  In my thinner, younger, more adventurous days I considered doing a photoshoot of me in a bathtub full of rice pudding.  Better hygiene and my husband prevailed.  That’s not what we’re here to talk about today.

As you know.  I don’t like recipes.  I make stuff up from scratch, and when you’re making risotto and you know the basic steps, THE WORLD IS YOUR STOVETOP.  I’ve experimented with risotto a couple different ways, but most often I’m making it because  it’s “I’ve got nothing in the pantry” night, two days before payday.  You should always have onions, always have chicken broth and always have aborio rice on hand.  There’s no reason not to.  As for the chicken breast, I sometimes saute it in olive oil and butter, slice it and throw it on top of the risotto, or just serve it whole, next to the star on the plate.  So that’s your call. Let’s proceed.

What You Need (Serves 4):

  • 1 1/4 cup aborio rice
  • Olive Oil
  • 6 tbsp butter divided
  • 1 medium onion cut into half moons
  • 1 lb button mushrooms sliced
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup water or white wine
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Ok, this is a four burner meal.  Your entire stove will be hoppin’.  Start by putting the chicken stock and water in a medium saucepan over low heat (on a back burner).

In a small saute pan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium high heat until foamy.  Throw your onions in and toss them around to coat.  Keep the heat on medium low and down futz with them too much.  After the onions turn translucent, add a pinch of salt.   


Yes, yes, that’s the stuff.  So let those just caramelize away over low, medium heat while you get the risotto started.

In a deep saute pan,risotto pan or sauce pan, throw about a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter over medium high heat.  Once it’s heated, add your aborrio rice and toss it around with a flat wooden spoon to coat with the oil.  Keeping it on medium high heat and pretty much constantly stirring, saute the rice for about two or three minutes.  You’ll know it’s done because it has this great sort of buttery/nutty smell and the rice will look almost translucent.  You are now ready to add your first liquid.

I keep a heat resistant ladle in my chicken stock throughout the process so I can just grab and pour a little or a lot as needed.  When I do my first liquid addition, I’ll do about three ladle’s full, maybe 1 cup total of liquid.  Give it a quick stir to loosen any rice from the bottom of your pan and get it all incorporated.  In the beginning I stir pretty vigorously, and I also shake my pan over the heat, kind of like you’re making Jiffy Pop.  When the rice rubs together it lets the starch break out or activate or whatever we want to call it, and that starch helps to create the creaminess later in the dish.  So no, you don’t have to stir it costantly, even if your grandma from Sicily did (what does she know from food?) You just have to stir it enough to keep it from sticking and to get all the liquid incorporated.  I add a bunch at first so I have time to do my mushrooms.

If your onions look a little dry, add another knob of butter before throwing in your sliced mushrooms.  In fact, just do that anyway.  Yes yes, I know,  mo’ butter mo’ problems, but we’re serving this with boneless skinless chicken and a green salad!  You deserve it. So put your mushrooms in the onion pan, toss them around to coat them in butter and then:  LEAVE THEM ALONE FOR AT LEAST THREE FULL MINUTES.

Do you get frustrated when you’re sauteing something and it doesn’t have that gorgeous golden brown color that you see in all the food mags?  I can tell you why – it’s because you’re fiddling with it.  If you want things to get that lush, dark brown, caramel color, you have to not move them.  Gray sauteed mushrooms (like the ones in the first picture, grrrr) are the worst.  So I even press them down to make sure they’re all in one layer, touching the pan.  Also don’t add any salt or pepper until AFTER the caramelization has taken place.  The salt will draw out moisture and delay or prevent caramelization. 

After three minutes, you can toss the mushrooms and onions around, turn the heat back down to low medium, hit them with some salt and pepper and return to your risotto.

The key here is to add more liquid whenever you can draw a spoon through the risotto and see a dry pan bottom.  If you’re seeing a pool of liquid, just give it a stir and wait another thirty seconds or so.  I add one or two ladles of liquid at a time, give it a shake, a couple good stirs and then let it go.  The whole process takes about 20-25 minutes depending on how creamy or al dente you like your rice.  By the time I get to adding my last 1/2 cup of broth or so, my rice is cooked through, creamy and could be considered done, but because I’m adding in the mushrooms and onions, I add some extra broth to loosen it up.

OK, so you’re nearing the end.  Stir in your last bit of stock, add the parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste, a tbsp of butter and your mushroom/onion mix.  After I’ve fully combined everything, I take it off the heat and put a lid on it until serving time.  This assures a little more incorporation of flavors and a little more liquid absorption.

It makes for great leftovers and is endlessly adaptable.  Risotto, you can do it!



§ 3 Responses to Recipe Monday: Jessica’s Caramelized Onion Risotto

  • Marlo says:

    Mmmmm….it doesn’t get much better than caramelized onions, mushrooms, and creamy rice goodness. I haven’t made risotto in a while – if it weren’t 85 degrees outside, I’d be tempted to make this tonight! Perhaps later this week instead. Thanks for sharing!

  • diane reid says:

    yum! this sounds really delish. i like the addition of the mushroom/onion mix toward the end, as i tried making mushroom risotto once before but put them in way early and ended up with very mushy mushroom mush risotto. too mushroomy. urgh. your way sounds much better. thank you.

  • Meredith says:

    I feel like I learned so much about mushrooms and onions that I’ll just have to consider risotto another time. I’m going to whip up some carmelized mushrooms and onions every night for a week!!

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