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SUGAR & SPICE

Trendy Rice Stew

Homemade Risotto is Surprisingly Easy

By Marissa A. Cheng

When people think of risotto, they automatically think that it’s a complicated dish -- too complicated for them to try. Risotto is a staple in the trendiest restaurants in Boston, so obviously, only the talented chefs working there can make risotto. However, risotto is a surprisingly easy dish to make when you consider the flavor-packed meal you end up with.

Risotto is essentially a sort of rice stew. It uses short-grain rice, such as Arborio rice, which you can find at Star for $2 for a one-pound box, or Trader Joe’s for $2 for a two-pound box. You’ll also need a couple of onions and a big can of chicken broth -- buy a low-salt, non-supermarket brand broth or your risotto will taste like chemicals. A wedge of parmesan is also a must, although you generally don’t need as much as the recipe requires.

The only complicated part of making risotto is watching the risotto. If you don’t have time to stay in the kitchen area, stirring the risotto and making sure it doesn’t burn, then it’s a good idea to try a different dish. You can be doing other things around the kitchen, of course, but risotto requires relatively constant stirring. However, anyone can stir a bunch of rice in a skillet.

Once you’ve mastered basic risotto -- risotto only flavored with parmesan and onions -- it’s time to experiment with variations. Essentially, you can add anything to risotto --chunks of meat, chunks of vegetables, different cheeses, etc. Good variations I’ve tried include diced red peppers and sundried tomatoes.