by Dana Velden
Risotto is one of those delicious dishes that not enough people make at home because it has a reputation for being fussy and time consuming. If you make it the traditional way, you have to spend about 20 to 30 minutes at the stove, all of it hands-on time as you stir and add stock, stir and add stock, stir and add stock.
What about a delicious, creamy risotto in about 12 to 15 minutes that includes some precious hands-off time? If that interests you, then you'll want to try making risotto in a pressure cooker. Read on for the recipe.
The pressure cooker method begins just like the traditional method with sautéing the onions and toasting the rice. After you spend about 5 to 6 minutes on this, things will take a very different turn. First, all of the liquid is added at once, and then the lid of the pressure cooker is snapped on and the pot is brought to high pressure. (Hint: If you heat the stock while you sauté the rice, it should come to pressure in about 2 minutes, if not less.) Pressure cook for 6 minutes and quick release by either running the pot under cold water or pressing the quick release valve. In the final minute or two, we are back in traditional mode when we stir in butter, parmesan or any herbs as a final seasoning.
One of the challenges with pressure cooking is that you are not able to keep an eye on things and adjust the timing while your food is cooking. Everything is locked in tight behind the heavy duty lid and there's no peeking allowed! Because there are so many variables in risotto (such as the quality of the rice, how dry it is, the way your pressure cooker functions, and so on), I only pressure cook it for 6 minutes -- a minute less than most recipes. That way, I can do some final tinkering if needed and I don't have to worry about overcooking the rice.
If the rice is a little undercooked or too soupy, it only takes a minute or two of further cooking and stirring with the lid off to bring it to the right consistency. Keep the flame at medium and stir until it is just a tad too soupy (the rice will continue to absorb liquid as you add the final touches and plate it).
If the rice has absorbed all the liquid and has separated into dry, individual grains, add some more stock or water. Stir over medium heat until it is just a little soupy but has started to bind together in a creamy emulsion. Then add the final touches and plate.
Classically, risotto is finished with a knob of butter and parmesan cheese just before serving. This is an important step to add a final note of creaminess and flavor. This is also a good time to add in fresh herbs, if you are using them.
The recipe below is basically a risotto alla milanese, which is simply flavored with onions (or shallots), saffron and parmesan. This simplicity is a big part of its charm and specialness. However, if you are interested in adding vegetables to your pressure cooker risotto, I have to warn you that it can get a little tricky. If they are already cooked, then stirring them in the end during the final touches stage is easy. But if you want to cook the vegetables along with the rice and stock, then you have consider the vegetables as part of the liquid, as they are often 95 percent water.
I recommend doing a simple, non-vegetable risotto like this one first so you have the basic method under your belt before adding the complexity of vegetables (or even proteins such as shrimp or chicken). That said, stirring in defrosted frozen peas at the butter stage of this recipe is a delicious variation!
15-Minute Risotto in a Pressure Cooker Recipe
Makes 4 main course servings.
4 cups of chicken stock (or more if needed)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cups of Arborio rice
1/2 cup of wine
Large pinch of saffron (about 1 teaspoon)
1 or 2 tablespoons of butter
1 cup grated parmesan, divided
Fresh thyme or parsley (optional)
Measuring cups and spoons
Pressure cooker (6 quart or larger)
Be sure that all your ingredients are prepped, measured, and ready to go. Place your stock in a saucepan under low flame to gently heat.
In the pressure cooker, add the olive oil and onion, along with a good pinch of salt. Sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and continue to stir another 2 or 3 minutes, or until the rice is just slightly toasted.
Add the wine to the pot (careful, it may splatter!), followed by the saffron, and stir until it has been absorbed, about 1 minute.
Add all of the stock, secure the lid on your pressure cooker, and bring up to high pressure using high heat.
Start your timer for 6 minutes. Lower the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 6 minutes.
After 6 minutes, release the pressure using a quick method: either by running cold running water over the cooker or pressing the quick-release valve on your cooker. Carefully remove the lid to avoid the steam and return the cooker to the stove.
If needed, cook the risotto further to absorb the stock or add more stock (or water) if too dry. While the risotto is still a little wet, add the butter and 1/2 of parmesan. Stir. Taste to see if it needs more salt. Remove from heat and stir in fresh herbs, if using, reserving a few for garnish.
Serve the risotto in a low-sided platter or bowl, or spoon into individual bowls. Garnish with remaining parmesan and any fresh herbs.
Risotto in a Pressure Cooker Recipe, Italian Cuisine
Available at Amazon.com: The French Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Lessons from Paris and Provence