My go-to comfort dish when I want to make something tasty, super easy, yet sophisticated enough for guests, is risotto – hands down.
I know that it can be intimidating to some but for some reason, I find it very straight forward and (touch wood!) I haven’t messed one up yet. The key I find is to never take your eyes off of it. As long as you constantly stir it for 25 minutes or so and taste it often in the last 5 minutes of cooking to ensure you catch it the moment it’s ready, there is little chance of not being successful. Since I’ve gotten my beautiful Staub cast iron French oven (in navy with a brass handle – swoon!), the process is actually even shorter and my risottos are ready in just under 20 minutes.
I made a crab rendition of this dish for Larry and Jacy ahead of us setting off for Woodstock for Memorial Day weekend with a bunch of our friends – my place becoming a sort of food pit stop ahead of us driving upstate to our destination for a couple hours.
I always use the same base for risotto – starting off by melting down a big knob of butter with a generous drizzle of olive oil and sweating off shallots and garlic (probably 1 large shallot and 1 clove of garlic to serve 4). I then add the rice and toast it for a few minutes before adding a good glug of white wine and letting that absorb into the rice. I usually do these steps a bit ahead of time – I have no evidence of this but I like to think that letting the rice sit for a bit after being infused with butter, alliums and wine can only contribute to an even better result in the end!
Once Larry and Jacy got to mine and I poured them some chilled Prosecco to keep them busy, I proceeded with the other steps in the recipe – ladling hot chicken stock and letting it absorb progressively until the risotto was ready. I then threw in the best quality crab meat I could procure, a bit of lemon juice, a heap of parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
To balance out the richness of the entrée, I served a raw fennel and celery salad that may just be my new favorite salad combination. I could eat fennel every single day, and prepared in any single way, but I particularly like it in raw slivers. Coupled with very, very thinly sliced celery (raw as well) and simply dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, S&P it served as a wonderfully crunchy and refreshing counter point. Just what we needed.