I love risotto because it’s one of the dishes I can cook without a recipe. It stands up to many different kinds of alterations and mix-ins, and will probably turn out fine as long as you have the right ratio of rice to liquid in mind (and even that, you can fudge a bit and adjust as you go).
Take this variation. Typically, you’d start with an onion or shallot, right? Here, I’m using leeks as the onion-y base. And mushrooms? Usually you’d cook those in with the risotto? Nah. Here they get browned and crisp away in the oven, to top off the risotto later. Now what about fennel? Does that belong in risotto? No idea, but it works.
And there you have it. A risotto that’s familiar but unexpected all at the same time.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- stalks from one fennel bulb, 1/4 cup chopped and the rest cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup fennel fronds
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 4-5 cups chicken stock
- 1 leek, cut into quarters and thinly sliced
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1 oz white wine or vermouth
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the mushrooms, fennel fronds and 1/2-inch pieces of fennel stalk with 1/2 tbsp olive oil, thyme, and salt and pepper. Roast 15-20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the fennel fronds are crispy. Set aside.
- Bring the chicken stock to a low simmer in a saucepan on the stove.
- Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a wide sauce pan or saucier. Add the leeks and chopped fennel, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender but not brown, 5-7 minutes.
- Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until toasted. Stir in the wine or vermouth and cook until it reduces.
- Add the stock 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently and allowing the liquid to be absorbed between each addition.
- After about 18 minutes, the rice should be nearly cooked. Continue to add the stock in half-cup increments until it is as tender as you like and the texture is just looser than you want.
- Remove from the heat, add the butter and stir vigorously until melted. Stir in the cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- To serve, ladle about 1 cup of risotto into each of four bowls. Top with the roasted fennel and mushrooms (you can pop them back in the warm oven for a minute or two to re-warm if they've cooled too much), and garnish with the crispy roasted fronds. Add additional fresh fennel, Parmesan cheese and/or pepper if desired. Serve immediately.
- To store leftovers: Remove any risotto you aren't going to eat immediately from the pan before adding butter and cheese, and store in the refrigerator. When ready to eat, gently reheat in the microwave or covered on the stovetop. Once warm, add the remaining butter and cheese and serve immediately.