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Revolutionary Risotto

Most 11-year-olds can microwave leftovers, or whip themselves up a peanut butter and jelly. But how many can really show you a great risotto?

Romilly Newman is not your average 11-year-old. An ambitious young woman, she taught herself how to cook by watching the food network, and now she has mastered recipes that would make experienced chefs pause. For the last year she has had her own webcast on Youtube, "Little Girl in the Kitchen," and has blogged about her successes and failures since she started on camera. She is going to show us some great risottos, explaining to us that once you have mastered the basic techniques, the possibilities are endless.

Now risotto can seem intimidating to at home chefs, but it doesn't have to be. Once you understand the basic techniques, the possibilities are endless. You can add almost any flavors you want. Here is the basic idea:

The rice is first cooked briefly in butter or olive oil to coat each grain in a film of fat, white wine is added and has to be absorbed by the grains. When it has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and very hot stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly: stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid.

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Tasting helps to indicate when the risotto is ready, a total time of about 17 minutes from when the wine evaporated. At that point it is taken off the heat and diced cold butter and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese are vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier, and left to cook with its residual heat but this requires fine judgment as to how much liquid will be absorbed by the rice while it waits.

Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy but still with some resistance or bite: al dente and with separate grains. It should be served on flat dishes and it should easily spread out but not have excess watery liquid around the perimeter. It must be eaten at once as it continues to cook in its own heat and can become too dry with the grains too soft.

PLEASE NOTE: COOKING TIME IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE AMOUNT OF STOCK ADDED TO RISOTTO. HAVE SIX CUPS READY FOR ADDING TO RISOTTO, BUT BE PREPARED TO ADD LESS.

FOR ADDING THE STOCK-YOU WILL ADD LADLES OF WARM STOCK AS NEEDED. YOU CANNOT WALK AWY FROM THE RISOTTO, IT NEEDS CONSTANT STIRRING AND WATCHING.

You add one ladle, you stir and watch it absorb. Then you add another, and you continue this process for 14 minutes. At that point you want to mix in your "add in" flavors, like crabs, leeks, sage etc. The TOTAL COOKING time on risotto is ABOUT 18 minutes.

Sage Risotto

1/2 cup yellow onion chopped
1 tablespoon garlic minced
1/2 cup Pecorino cheese grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 white wine
2 cups Arborio rice
1 tablespoon chopped sage
6 cups warmed chicken stock

Over medium heat-

Saute chopped yellow onions with the butter and oil until clear and somewhat soft. Then add Arborio rice and the 1/2 cup white wine. After about a minute or so add a ladle of chicken stock. Continue to allow one minute cook time between ladles of stock until all stock is added. It should be about 14 minutes then sage and garlic I cook that for about 5 more minutes. Then add the cheese and allow 2 more minutes of cooking time. I like to top it with some fried sage and a few gratings of pecorino.

Zucchini and Pine Nut Risotto

1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Fiore Sardo cheese
1 cup chopped yellow onions
1 tablespoon garlic minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup white wine
1 yellow zucchini sliced into little circles
1 green zucchini sliced into little circles
1 tablespoon black truffle oil
5 squash blossoms -optional but if you have sliced very thinly
6 cups warmed chicken stock

Over medium heat-

Saute onions with the butter and oil until translucent and soft then add Arborio rice and the 1/2 cup white wine and garlic. After a minute or so add a ladle of chicken stock, stirring and adding stock as needed for about 14 minutes then add cheese cook for 5 more minutes (until done) then sauté zucchini and squash blossoms until brown but not mushy, plate risotto and but zucchini and squash blossoms on top with pine nuts and add truffle oil and remaining cheese.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Risotto
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup yellow onion chopped
1 tablespoon garlic minced
1/2 butternut squash cubed and sauteed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 pound shitake mushrooms sliced whole and sauteed until crispy
1/2 white wine
1 tablespoon black truffle oil
1/2 Fiore Sardo cheese grated
6 cups warmed chicken stock

Over medium heat-

Saute onions with the butter and oil until translucent and soft then add Arborio rice and the 1/2 cup white wine and garlic. When the white wine has been absorbed (about 1 minute), add a ladle of chicken stock, stirring and adding as needed for about 18 minutes until risotto is done. Then add mushroom and butternut squash and drizzle the truffle oil and a little bit of the remaining cheese for serving.

For a Crab and Leek Risotto recipe, go to Page 2.

Crab and Leek Risotto
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup onions (yellow)
1 container crab meat -small (8 ounces)
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley chopped
1 tablespoon chives chopped
1/2 cup Fiore Sardo cheese grated
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped leeks
6 cups warmed chicken stock

Over medium heat-

Saute yellow and leek onions with the butter and oil until translucent and soft then add Arborio rice and the 1/2 cup white wine. Add a ladle of chicken stock and garlic. Keep adding ladles and ladles of the stock until absorbed and continue to stir for about 14 minutes. Then I add the parsley and cook for 5 more minutes then the crab and cheese and lemon and chives I stir around on low heat for about 1 more minute and garnish with extra grated cheese and chives and parsley.

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