TasteFood by Lynda Balslev

Welcome Spring With a Lemony Risotto

Here is what I think about risotto: A good risotto should be creamy, but not gummy or soupy. The rice should be tender, with a little give to each bite (al dente). Any accompanying ingredients should be minimal without muddying, and ideally, they should reflect the season. This risotto checks all of those boxes.

It’s firmly planted in spring with a lemony brightness and pucker that cuts through risotto’s inherent richness. Flecks of fresh mint and lemon zest add color and a fragrant whiff of garden-fresh flavor. The finished dish is creamy and elegant without being heavy. You can easily dig into a steaming bowl of this risotto and call it a meal, but it also makes a simple first course or side dish to meat and fish.

When making risotto, there are a few rules to follow for success. For a traditional risotto, you will need to purchase arborio, an Italian rice grain known for its high starch content, which creates a creamy risotto. Be sure to lightly toast the rice grains before adding any liquid. This step creates a protective shell around each grain, which prevents the rice from bursting or becoming soggy while cooking.

And yes, you must continually stir the rice while it cooks. This will prevent the rice from sticking to the pan and burning while cooking, and it will help to release the starch from the rice grains, which develops the risotto’s creaminess. This may sound labor-intensive, but the process should take only 20 to 25 minutes, and it you'll get to take pride of accomplishment in the finished result. It’s also a window of time when the only task at hand is to concentrate on the rhythm of stirring -- which in itself might be considered a simple pleasure -- yielding delicious results.

Lemon Risotto With Mint

Active Time: about 30 minutes

Total Time: about 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

6 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup

2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves, plus more for garnish

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus extra for garnish

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring the stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon butter and the oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until the rice is well coated and slightly toasted, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed, about 1 minute.

Add 1 cup stock and stir until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup, until the rice is al dente and the risotto is creamy. (Depending on the age of the rice, you may not use all of the stock. Older rice requires more liquid to cook.)

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the cheese. Stir in the lemon juice, mint, zest, salt and black pepper, and taste for seasoning.

Serve immediately, garnished with additional mint and lemon zest.

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