Friday, February 1, 2013

Rice Cooker Risotto

There is no hiding my love for risotto.  I'm pretty crazy about rice to begin with, and smothering that with cheese just makes it irresistible!  But the "risotto method" is a pain in the tush.  One pan for the risotto, a pot of hot liquid that you add little by little, stirring the whole time, until your arm wants to fall off and your 3 kids have probably mortally wounded each other in the other room because they know you're tethered to the thanks.  I love risotto, but I also love this thing called sanity.

But, back in the day, even before the kiddos came along, I came across a method of making risotto where the risotto doesn't constantly need attention like a screaming newborn.  So, I can have my risotto and my sanity too.  And, because I love it so much, I'm sharing it here with you!

A word of warning: this may not be your perfect risotto.  I tend to like my risotto on the thick side, around the consistency of a nice steel-cut oatmeal.  Some people like it looser, or more creamy.  But since it's my blog, you get the recipe the way I like it, and if you want to change it up, I swear, I won't be insulted at all.  It's probably not the greatest risotto ever made.  I get that.  Wolfgang Puck or Mario Batali might slap me for serving it...but wouldn't that be an awesome story to tell people about?  The fact of the matter is, this is a quick, relatively hands-off method for me to get risotto in my belly.  Accessible risotto.

As you probably guessed from the title, you'll need a rice cooker for this method.  I know some people are rolling their eyes over that.  I have to say, as far as bang for my buck on kitchen appliances goes, the rice cooker is way up there for me.  For around $30, the one I have even has a timer on it so that I can put rice in it in the morning and have it cook it to be ready for dinner.  Brown rice in a rice cooker is so much better than I've ever been able to make it on the stove.  And despite it's guise as a single-use appliance, it really can be used for a lot of things.  You can make oatmeal or other grains in it, steam meats and vegetables, use it to hold a hot drink like cider...there's even a recipe on Weelicious for rice cooker mac and cheese.  I'd say mine is out and used close to 3 times a week, minimum.

So let's get down to business.  Small dice some onion.  Half of a medium-sized one is good to me, but this is completely to your own taste.

Turn on the rice cooker (if yours has a saute setting or a porridge setting, use that, otherwise just use the white rice setting) and melt some butter in it.  Since I'm getting low on butter, I used 1 tablespoon today.  Usually I would do around 2.

Saute the onions in the butter in the rice cooker until they are softened.  Be careful because the insert bowl can get pretty hot.  If you'd like, you could probably throw some garlic in right at the end too.  I usually stick with the onion.  One of the other perks of this method that I neglected to point out before is that it's all done in one dish!  Less dishes almost always leads to more awesomeness, at least in my opinion.  I hate washing dishes.

 You're going to need a high-starch medium or short-grain rice for risotto.  Arborio rice is what I usually go for, although if money was no object, I hear Carnaroli is the way to go.  You do not want to rinse the rice at all, because the starch on the rice is what brings the creamy consistency to your risotto.

Typically, I'd say to follow the directions that come with your cooker.  But sometimes you have to break out of the box, or maybe you've lost the directions in the massive shuffle of papers that comes home from your kids' schools daily.  Whatever.  For this risotto, you want 1 part rice to 4 parts liquid.  I did a cup for each part.  For the liquid, I like the little bite that wine gives, but also the saltiness of chicken stock.  You can thin that with water too.  Today I did 1 cup wine, 2 cups stock, and a cup of water.   Stir the rice into the sauteed onions and butter to coat the grains with the butter.  Then pour in the liquid(s), season with salt and pepper, give a quick stir, close the lid, and set it to go.  If your machine has a manual setting, go for about 25 minutes.  For mine, I use the white rice setting.  If yours has a porridge setting, go with that.  And then, walk away feeling smug that you don't have to stir.

In all that free time you have from not stirring, you might want to get your other ingredients ready.  Minimally, you want a decent amount of freshly shredded Parmesan or Pecorino or a similar hard Italian cheese.  Please note that this will not work with that green can stuff.  Don't even attempt it without real cheese.  You can also add in other fun flavors, like herbs or greens.  I have a ton of herbs in my freezer from my garden last summer, so I grabbed out some thyme today.  It was a little icy, as you can see in the photo.  I figured that would just help cool down the risotto so that I didn't burn my mouth like I usually do, because I'm pretty impatient.  I also grabbed some of the kale that I had frozen from our CSA this summer and gave that a quick chop.  This is where you can get really creative.  Spinach is delicious instead of the thyme and kale, but my absolute favorite is when I have fresh beet greens that I can thinly slice and throw into my risotto.  It's amazing, and beautiful to look at with the green and pink of the beet greens against the soft white of the risotto.

 When the timer goes off for your rice cooker, open it up. Don't worry if there seems to be extra liquid.  Give it a stir.  There may be some browning on the rice, but that's okay as well.  I like the flavor that it brings, and I've gotten to the point where I'm a little disappointed if I don't see a little browning.  Stir in your cheese to melt it, and then your additional greens, herbs, whatever.

And...that's about it!  Check it for seasoning, add a little salt and/or pepper if you feel it needs it, and dish it out!  You can serve it on its' own or as a side to a nice salad and some chicken, whatever floats your boat.  If you have leftovers, keep the in the fridge, and then later you can make delicious risotto fritters by mixing in some egg, shaping them into flattened balls, rolling them in breadcrumbs or flour, and then pan frying them in a little olive oil.  Sneak a little bocconcini (those small fresh mozarella balls) in the middle of the patties when you are shaping them, and you can take it to a whole different level.  Buon Appetito!

Rice Cooker Risotto

Arborio rice
Wine, stock, water or a combination
Fresh Parmesan cheese
herbs (optional)
greens (optional)

Chop some onion, then turn rice cooker to white rice (or saute, or porridge) setting.  Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in the rice cooker.  Add onions and saute until they are softened.  Add 1 part Arborio or other high-starch rice and stir. Add 4 parts liquid (wine, stock, water, or a combination) and season with salt and pepper.  Stir.  Close the lid and let the rice cooker finish the cycle (or time cook for 25 minutes).  Add freshly grated Parmesan or other hard Italian cheese, along with any herbs or greens you would like.  Give a stir for the cheese to melt and the greens to wilt.  Adjust seasoning, if needed, and then serve.


  1. Sounds delicious. Makes me wish I had a rice cooker!