I have found two things to be absolutely essential in order to capture the essence of a risotto. I have made many versions, with different ingredients, all delicious, and also vegan versions, where although the result may be somewhat thinner in flavour depth, lacking butter and Parmesan for example, the texture can still be there and it can still be tasty. However, none of this is possible without:
1. Proper rice that will cook to a creamy velvety texture and
2. Good strong stock that will carry the flavour
This is a simple recipe in terms of ingredients so the focus is on technique, and the quantities are for 2 generous portions.
To prepare the stock put in a pot, all or any of
Various herb stalks
and fill with cold water. You want as much of the vegetables as possible, the pot should be stuffed. Bring to a boil, then lower heat slightly and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain. This will keep well in the fridge for a few days, and the freezer for months. You will need about 1 lt for this risotto so start with at least 2,5 lt of water.
For the risotto, in a pan covered with olive oil (or butter, or both), over medium to high heat, saute:
Onion, 1 medium pc, cut in very small cubes, and after a few minutes, when starting to soften add
Rice, 180 gr, appropriate for risotto (the variety will vary from country to country, for example in Greece, Arborio rice is not so readily available especially in the far seaside, so I use Karolina which has a high amylopectin content, required for the desired texture in risotto)
Stir together for a few more minutes and de-glaze with
White wine 1/3 cup
As soon as the alcohol evaporates, lower heat considerably and add enough of the stock to cover the rice mixture properly. You will need at least half a cup (about 125 ml) on the first addition, maybe more, depending on the size of your pan. Adjust the heat so that the temperature allows for a steady simmer. You should be seeing small bubbles here and there. Stir with a wooden spoon every 5 minutes or so, and keep adding stock whenever it is absorbed to have a well covered rice mixture simmering away. After about 30 minutes the rice should be soft enough but not quite there, have a taste, or break it it with your nails, it should require a few more minutes, trust your judgment, experience comes with practice. At this point add
Button mushrooms 250 gr (stalks removed and used for the stock), quartered, and seared in a very hot non-stick pan for a few minutes
Salt, to taste
and the last portion of stock. When absorbed remove from heat and add 1 to 2 more tbs of stock, a knob of butter, and 1/3 cup grated Parmesan and stir will. The rice will keep on absorbing as much as needed for a few more minutes and the extra liquid will bind the butter, Parmesan and rice together, resulting in this velvety, creamy incredibly satisfying feeling a risotto should give.
Serve with freshly ground pepper, more, grated Parmesan, and garnish with fresh thyme.