If you have never had risotto, then shame on you. If you have no idea what risotto even is, then shame on you even more. This Italian dish is essentially creamy rice, and is usually served as a first course or main dish, although it can also be a side dish. Unlike conventional rice cooking methods, in which you add all of your liquid to the rice at the start, risotto achieves its creamy consistency by slowly and gradually adding liquid to the rice while it cooks. The liquid is usually broth. Chicken broth seems to be the popular way to go, although beef, fish, seafood, or vegetable broth can also be used.
The first two times that I had risotto, it was made at home by myself and a family member. I had heard so many tales about how difficult it is to make, that I was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out. The lemon risotto, in particular, stood out to me. That was two years ago. Recently, I found myself craving it again. More specifically, I when discussing things that might go well with pork or chicken cracklings, lemon risotto came to mind. You might think that topping such a fancy dish with something as “down home” as cracklings is madness. You might be right, but it is OH SO GOOD madness. You’ve got the creamy tartness of the lemon along with the salty, savory crunch of the cracklings. Somehow, IT WORKS.
For the cracklings, I took pieces of raw pork skin and rubbed them with kosher salt, pepper, and olive oil, then cooked in the oven at 375 degrees for about an hour. Just long enough for the fat to render and the skins to get crispy. I used my chef knife to chop them up (though, I wish I’d had a meat cleaver to do the job) and topped each serving of risotto with a sprinkling. The risotto is also great on its own, but I suggest you try it with the cracklings at least once.
Lemon Risotto (adapted from Epicurious recipe)
- 6 cups low sodium chicken broth (I used regular chicken stock)
- 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large shallots, chopped ( I used white onion)
- 2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I used fresh basil)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
Bring broth to simmer in large saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low; cover to keep warm.
Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until tender, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, if using, and continue to saute until fragrant.
Add rice; stir 1 minute. Add wine and stir until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add 1 1/2 cups hot broth; simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. Add remaining broth 1/2 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until rice is creamy and tender, about 35 minutes.
Stir in cheese and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in parsley, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Season risotto with salt and pepper. If you used chicken stock, you probably won’t need to season it very much, if at all. Transfer to bowl and serve.
Patience is key with risotto. Don’t try to rush the cooking process. It will be well worth it in the end.