The most important ingredient in your risotto (and by far, the most often overlooked) is the stock. Go ahead and bicker over the rice (arborio or carnaroli?), the fat (olive oil or butter?), the acid (lemon juice or wine?), you’re just wasting time. No matter what combination of rice+fat+acid you settle on, if you use boxed vegetable or chicken stock your risotto will grow fat on that antiseptic flavor, the sanitized taste of cartoned stock.
Now you’ll argue that you don’t keep homemade stock on hand. I’ll digitally rap your knuckles for that, but offer you an escape route in this recipe. To flavor this rice fully with summer corn, shuck the kernels and then roast the bare cobs. Once bronzed in the oven, drop them in a pot of simmering water with an onion and make stock right away. With very little effort (and no extra ingredients than you’ll already need for the risotto) you’ve got a bath of sweet corny liquid for your rice.
Take note: when you’re trimming veggies (tops and bottoms), removing stems, and peeling away layers, SAVE, SAVE, SAVE. I keep a gallon sized plastic bag in the freezer and chuck the bits and bobs into it as I work through the week/month. When the bag is full, I dump it in a big pot, cover the scraps with water, add some peppercorns and let it simmer for a few hours. Do the same with animal bones. Homemade stock need not be a burden, it should be as it always was, a reduction of scraps and unused parts, a distillation of flavor. Be clever in the kitchen and you’ll save more money than you’d expect.
2 ears Summer Corn
1 Yellow Onion, split in half
3-4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup Arborio Rice
2 cloves Garlic, minced (~2 tsp.)
1 glass White Wine (~3/4 cup)
Juice of one Lemon
1 quart Corn Stock (made within this recipe)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat your oven to 450 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off both cobs of corn. Save the kernels in a bowl for the risotto. Rub each cob with a touch of olive oil and set them in a small pan to roast in the oven. Cook them for 20-30 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from the oven.
Place the hot cobs into a large saucepan. Cut ½ yellow onion into large cubes and add them to the pan as well. Add 1 quart of water, enough to cover the cobs and onion. Bring the water to a boil with a lid on the pot, then drop the heat and simmer uncovered for at least one hour (up to three for maximum flavor).
Thinly slice the remaining ½ yellow onion and sauté with the olive oil in a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed stock pot. Add salt.
When the onion is translucent, add the rice, and garlic to the dutch oven and sauté just until the rice grains look lightly toasted.
Add the white wine and lemon juice to the dutch oven, deglazing the pan.
Begin adding the warm corn stock one ladle at a time to the dutch oven. Allow the rice to absorb the liquid slowly, when it looks like the liquid is gone, add another ladle full.
Stir and continue to ladle in stock until all the stock is gone, this should take about 20-30 minutes.
When the rice is cooked to your liking, stir in the reserved corn kernels and remove from the heat.
Yield: 4 dinner portions or 6 side servings