This might not be a surprise to you but I think that most restaurant meals are a tad bit overpriced.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to pay for a really delicious meal, but some restaurants get away with charging high prices for meals because people have a perception of the dish being very hard to make at home.
I think risotto is pretty much the perfect example of this. I mean, risotto is a poor man’s meal. It’s rice. And stock. Nothing fancy. The only reason why it’s expensive is because there’s a perception that it’s a difficult dish.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen risotto in a restaurant for less than $15 and most are above $20.
You can buy a lot of rice for $20, people.
And I have better news for you. The concept that risotto is hard to make is a myth. It’s really not. You can do it. I promise. And while you’re making it, you can also fold in some delicious persimmons. If you do this, you’ll be left with a big pot of some of the best risotto I’ve ever eaten.
Yield: Serves 4.
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup shallots
1/3 cup white wine
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
2 persimmons, peeled and chopped
1/2 lemon, juice only
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Seared Chicken breasts (opt.)
1) Peel and dice persimmons. Dice shallots. Toss chicken breasts with some olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
2) Heat chicken stock in a large pot until it's simmering.
3) In a large, high-sided pan, add a drizzle of olive oil over high heat. Once it's hot, add chicken breasts, skin side down. Sear for 5 minutes on each side.
4) Transfer seared chicken breasts to an oven-safe dish and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until they are cooked through.
5) In the same pan that you used to sear the chicken, add some fresh olive oil and the shallots. Cook for a minute or two over medium high heat until shallots soften. Try to scrape up any bits stuck to the pan.
6) Add rice and continue to cook for a minute or two.
7) Add white wine and continue to cook. At this point you should be able to easily scrape up any bits stuck to the pan.
8) Once white wine is cooked off, ladle in warm chicken stock. Add about 3/4 cup of stock at a time and stir risotto as it cooks over medium heat.
9) When pan is dry, ladle in more stock. Continue doing this until the risotto is soft but still has a tiny bite to it. This will probably take between 4-5 cups of stock and about 25-30 minutes.
10) When risotto is desired texture, season with salt and pepper and stir in chopped persimmons.
11) To remove pomegranate seeds, cut the pomegranate into quarters and break apart the quarters submerged in a bowl of water. The seeds will sink.
12) Serve risotto with chicken and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.
Persimmons are a strange fruit. They look kind of like tomatoes, but are much firmer. They are seasonally available in the winter (Nov-Feb normally) and can add a slight sweet flavor to dishes. They are actually really mild though so don’t be afraid to use a lot of them in something flavorful like risotto.
The important part about persimmons is that their skin is really tough. It’s not like tomato skin even though it looks like. You definitely want to peel these guys before using them.
Once they are peeled you can just dice up the fruit and set it aside for later.
The finished risotto is pretty hearty and can definitely be served on its own. You can make it with vegetable stock and make it vegetarian even.
To make it a full dinner though, I decided to sear some chicken and serve it on top of the risotto.
I just tossed a few chicken breasts (bone-in and skin-on) with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Then I seared them on high heat in the same pan that I used for my risotto.
I just cooked the chicken breasts for about 5 minutes skin side down. Then I transferred the chicken to an oven-safe dish and finished them off in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
The nice thing about this is that searing the chicken in the pan leaves some great flavors in the pan that we can use for our risotto.
Making the Risotto
Before you can really start cooking the risotto, add your stock to a large pan and bring it to a very light simmer. Adding hot stock to the risotto will make the cooking process a lot faster.
Once your stock is hot, start the risotto by adding a drizzle of fresh olive oil to the pan that you seared the chicken in (don’t wash the pan). Then toss in the shallots and cook them for a few minutes over medium-high heat until they are soft but not browned.
Then add in your rice. Obviously this will be very dry, but it’s important to heat the rice before you start to add liquid so the grains open up.
Once the rice and shallots cook for a minute or two, add in the white wine. It’ll hiss and sizzle and complain, but use the liquid from the white wine to lift any bits of chicken that might be stuck to the pan from the earlier searing.
The white wine will be gone in no time and then you’re ready to start adding your hot chicken stock.
The “Hard” Part
The next part is the part that people think makes risotto difficult. Basically, you need to ladle in small batches (about 3/4 cup at a time) of the hot stock and stir it into the rice until the rice is cooked.
This could take anywhere from 25-35 minutes and probably use 4-5 cups of stock.
Traditionally, you are supposed to never stop stirring the risotto while it cooks, but I don’t really do that and my risotto always turns out fine. I just ladle in some stock, stir the risotto so the liquid distributes, then I walk away for a minute or two if I need to.
You don’t need to stir constantly, but you do need to keep a close eye on it because if it gets dry you need to immediately add more stock to the pan or the risotto could burn.
That’s really all there is to it: Stock. Stir. Repeat.
This was my finished risotto. The finished version is rich and creamy and the grains should still have a very tiny bite to them. They shouldn’t be mushy.
Finishing the Dish
When the risotto is cooked, go ahead and add in all those chopped persimmons and a dash of fresh lemon juice.
Stir this all together and season it with a bit of salt and pepper and your risotto is done!
The Pom Seeds
I wanted to add on a fun and colorful garnish to this dish and pomegranate seeds seemed like the perfect choice. They are a bit crunchy which adds a nice texture and the have a strong flavor that I thought would go well with the creamy risotto.
Of course, the problem is how to do you get all those seeds out of the pomegranate?!
It’s really easy actually. Just quarter the pomegranate and then submerge each quarter in a large bowl of water. While the pomegranate is underwater, use your fingers to break up the seeds. The seeds will sink and all of the white pith parts will float. Then you can just drain the seeds and you’re ready to go!
Like I said, you can serve the risotto by itself like I did in the first photo or serve it with the seared chicken.
Betsy and I both agreed that this was the best risotto I’ve ever made. Just delicious.
I would charge at least $25 for this at my imaginary restaurant.
But you wouldn’t pay that much, of course, because now you can make it for yourself!