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OWTK Recipe Box: Kid Friendly Risotto

It’s been years since I shared something tasty from the OWTK recipe box.  I value family dinnertime so much, so I hope to make this a more frequent feature.  I do make some kick-ass food after all.

Recent Facebook banter about spicing up the family mealtime routine got me thinking that I need to let others know just how great this easy homemade risotto is.  It’s creamy and delicious, makes a great leftover in a thermos for school, and is a devilishly sneaky way to get some extra (and maybe even out of the ordinary) veggies into your kids bellies.  I’m talking asparagus, zucchini, and carrots…or anything at all really.

The origin of risotto is rooted is poverty.  Families would take all the meat and potatoes and veggies left at the end of the week, combine with rice and broth, and make a hearty, filling dish while at the same time not wasting a single scrap of grub.  Smart.  You can certainly do the same, it’s quite sensible and budget-conscious, but risotto can be made much more glamorously nowadays too.  Totally your call.  The base ingredients are stable, but the add-on and add-in potential is pretty much endless.

I usually make mine with sweet Italian sausage, shrimp, peas, red bell pepper, and yellow squash.   The dish tastes great and looks wonderful – a primary color bonanza!  This recipe can be transformed into a delicious vegetarian offering by swapping chicken stock for vegetable stock, using your preferred butter substitute, and leaving out any and all meat.  duh.

The Mouse and I making risotto in May 2010.

OWTK’s Kid Friendly Risotto (yields roughly 10 sizable servings)

  • 2 tbps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp thyme (fresh preferred, but I usually use dried)
  • 1 tsp oregano (fresh preferred, but again I usually use dried)
  • 6 cups of chicken stock (while you can use broth or even water, stock greatly adds to the depth of flavor)
  • 1.5 cups of red wine
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 onion, diced (I’ve used red, spanish, yellow…you pick)
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • garlic (I use about 3 cloves but you can decrease or increase this amount depending on your interest in garlic)
  • grated Parmesan cheese (or similar)
  • sausage, crumbled and out of casing
  • veggie assortment, diced: carrots, yellow squash, asparagus, and some frozen peas (not diced, mind you)

Now here are the steps you must take to put all those delicious ingredients together.  Note that all of this can be done simultaneously if you have at least 3 burners operational on your stove top.

**Before you get started, I strongly suggest you mise en place everything in pinch bowls, cereal bowls, measuring cups, whatever you got.  This makes cooking so much easier and organized.  It’s also a great way to let the kids be involved.

Step 1: Heat up some of the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.  Toss in the sausage and saute until brown.  By the way, if your butcher or grocery store doesn’t sell sausage devoid of casing fear not.  Just buy the sweet Italian links and squeeze the meat out like it’s the last bit of toothpaste in the container.  It’ll slide right on out of there.  It’s kinda fun too.  Now it’s time to add the thyme and oregano.  Then the veggies/onions/frozen peas.  Cook until tender and lovely.  Pour in 1/2 a cup of the red wine and let simmer for 10 minutes or so.  This should all smell fantastic.  If not, well, you may want to order a pizza ’cause something is wrong.  Remove and set aside.  I’m partial to pouring it all into a bowl, then cleaning the pan and putting it away.  Because I don’t like a pile of dishes at the end.

Step 2: Pour all the stock into a big ‘ol saucepan and bring to boil.  Then quickly reduce to a simmer and cover. Wasn’t that easy?

Step 3: Place the stick of butter in a heavy duty pan, preferably one with sidewalls like this, over medium-high heat (right around 6 on electric stoves).  Watch it melt.  This might be the best part making this dish!  How often do you get to watch an entire stick of butter fade away like the Wicked Witch of the West?  Okay, enough food porn.  And Wizard of Oz references.  Add in the onions (listen to ‘em sizzle!) and the garlic and saute ‘em for a few minutes until clear.  Add in the arborio rice then the last 1 cup of red wine.  Stir it around until the rice becomes one with the wine.  You’ll know what I mean once you see it happen in a minute or two.  Now add your first ladle (or cup) of stock and stir it in.  I like to have the stock pan and the risotto pan on back-to-back burners for easy transference – ’cause you’ll be doing it often!    When the stock is fully absorbed, repeat.  Keep stirring!  Repeat.  Stir.  Repeat. Stir!  Got it?  Good.  It usually takes 2-3 minutes per ladle full.  When you are down to the last bit of stock you should taste the rice to see how firm it still is.  It’s probably just a tiny bit hard still.  This is okay.  Dump in the sausage/shrimp/veggies/whatever it was you cooked in that other pan.  Stir.  Then keep going with the stock until it’s all gone.  Your risotto should be all done, rich, thick and positively gorgeous.

Step 4: Season with salt and pepper to your own taste.  Add grated cheese.  Plate up and serve!

Step 5: Sit down and eat together as a family.  It’s cool, I’ll wait….

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It was awesome, no?  Well, guess what?  It’s an even better leftover after all the food mingles, hugs it out in the fridge, and the whole dish gets that much more flavorful. Just reheat in the microwave and/or fill up your kiddo’s thermos for school.

Comments welcome after you give this one a go.

This game-time recipe has been submitted for The LG Do March Right Tip-Off Challenge.

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