Cheddar Andouille Risotto

I recently told you about my quest to recreate a risotto I had on a recent trip to Boston that blew up into a full-blown attack of OCD/ADD/WTF.  Well, I’m here to report that while my garage isn’t clean, my stock isn’t homemade, and I still don’t have a second freezer, I have mastered the risotto.  It took roughly 4 iterations which is about a million less than I thought it would take.  You should make this…presuming you like andouille sausage and seriously, who doesn’t?  It’s delicious.  But, if you’re a weirdo and don’t like spicy andouille sausage, I feel confident it would still be delish with some other sausage substitution but I will still consider you weird.

Here’s what you will need:

1.5 cups Aborio rice – Let’s talk about rice for a second.  If you’ve never made risotto, it’s important you know that it only really works with a couple different kinds of rice.  Don’t go out and buy some healthy long-grain crap or try to substitute plain white rice.  It just won’t work.  And while I did find Arborio Rice in the regular rice aisle, I got better results with the Arborio Rice I found in the International Foods Aisle at my grocery store.  There’s one other kind of rice that was recommended for risotto but I’m too lazy to look it up right now so just buy Arborio Rice, I promise it isn’t hard to find…unless you’re weird and then I presume most anything is difficult for you, especially finding menu options in Cajun Restaurants.

Roughly 9 jillion gallons of chicken stock – I’m exaggerating but only a little bit.  Obviously, if you can make your own chicken stock that is best but if you need to re-hang drywall, do plumbing repairs, and epoxy the garage floor before you can make your own chicken stock like I do, it’s okay to use the stuff you buy in the store.  I used organic stock in the large boxes.  My method for picking the stock to use was to find the one with only ingredients I can pronounce.  It takes almost 2 full boxes of stock but you might need more or less depending on your altitude, humidity, zodiac sign, gullibility, and seismic activity.

1 Red Bell Pepper – Diced.  That one is pretty self-explanatory. 

1 Yellow Onion – Diced

1 Large or 2 Small Cloves of Garlic

A Big Healthy Pinch of Saffron – I know, I know, saffron is so fracking expensive.  In fact, by weight, it’s the most expensive thing in the grocery store you can buy because it takes like 800 million flowers to get enough for an ounce or something like that.  But if you’re like me, you may or may not have smuggled in some illegal products from your most recent trip to Dubai.  I mean, to be clear, I did NOT but YOU might.  I happen to know that saffron from Iran is sold in containers the size of hockey puck size in Dubai for only about $5 US which is a BARGAIN if you ignore the cost of airfare and hotel and potential legal fees if you get caught going through customs.  I suggest buying A LOT of loose gems while you’re there to distract the customs officials from the container that says in giant gold letters “PRODUCT OF IRAN” on the top filled with the most expensive spice known to mankind.  I hear that worked for someone…at some time…alegedly.  And yes, you could go without the saffron but it really isn’t the same.  Saffron is really potent and so you can tell the difference.  Spring for the saffron if you can – you can get it at a regular grocery store if you’re not up for a trip to the Middle East.  But let me know if you are heading to the Middle East…just because.

A Good Glug of Your Favorite White Wine – Yes, glug is a scientific measure.  I’ll go into how much to put in exactly but the important thing is it has to be a wine you like because it’ll reduce down and intensify the flavor.  I like to use Pinot Grigio.  Anything not too sweet should work.  Feel free to drink the rest of the bottle while you cook.  You’re going to be stirring for a long time, you’ll need the hydration. 

1 Cup of Extra-Sharp Cheddar Cheese (Grated) – Don’t cheat and buy the pre-shredded cheddar-type-cheese-flavored product.  For this risotto it’s really important to buy a potent and high quality aged cheddar.  This means you may have to meander into that snobby grocery store with the fancy cheese counter that may or may not give you an anxiety attack, but it’ll be worth the Xanax you use to get through the trip.  What you’re looking for is a cheddar that has a really good bite to it.  You know what I’m talking about.  If you don’t, then go to the store and buy the most expensive aged extra-sharp cheddar you can find and then buy a bar of the grocery store brand cheddar and taste both of them.  If you don’t taste the difference, you probably should just make mac and cheese from the box and skip this one. 

2-ish Links of Andouille Sausage – If you don’t know what Andouille is, it’s a Cajun sausage that’s a little spicy.  But it’s delicious.  I cut it into about 1/4 inch “coins” and then I cut them in half because I don’t like any one bite to be overwhelmed by the sausage.  If I’m feeling really OCD (when am I not), I peel the casing off all of them.  You can skip that, the casing is totally edible.

Basil – About 2 Tbsp chopped (or ripped if you have the patience as I hear a metal blade turns the edges of basil brown.  I never remember this until after I’ve chopped it).

3 or 4 Tablespoons of Butter

And finally – whatever leftover veggies you have in the fridge.  I used Green Beans on my last one but you don’t have to include any additional veggies if you don’t have any around or if your family treats veggies like nuclear waste.

The first thing to do is fill up a pot with about 1.5 boxes of your chicken stock and add your saffron.  If it starts to look like you’re going to need more stock, you can add it to the pot and heat it up mid-way through.  Heat your stock to simmering but you don’t want it boiling.  I can’t remember why but I swear there was a reason.  This means that as you use the stock, you’ll need to reduce the heat as the volume in the pot decreases to keep it from boiling.  Turn the burner on to Med-Low-ish.

Then I take a pan and brown up my sausage.  Once it’s browned to my liking, I take it out of the pan.  Then I cook whatever extra veggies (not the peppers or onion) I’m adding to the risotto in the pan that I browned sausage in so I can get that yummy sausage fat into the veggies.  Not going to lie, if there isn’t enough fat in the pan to do the veggies, I may or may not add some bacon fat from the fridge.  I am a southern girl, we understand the value of bacon fat and hang onto it.  You can always just use water if you’re plain and boring and not southern.  Then throw the veggies in with the sausage to wait.

Green Beans always look better on top of a bed of sausage.

Now we’re ready to start the risotto.  Put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in your pan.  I use a large deep skillet but if you don’t have one, pretty much anything deep enough will work.  Once the pan is hot, add your onions, red bell pepper, and garlic and I keep the heat around medium and cook for several minutes until the onions are translucent. 

Then you add the 1.5 cups of rice and stir constantly to toast the rice.  I have no idea how long you do this.  I usually zone out from all the wine I drank while chopping the veggies and sausage. 

Then you add the wine.  I followed the advice of Food Network’s Chef Anne Burrell and add enough to just cover the rice.  So, that’s why I don’t have an exact measurement for you.  Then you stir..and stir…and stir…  They say you should never stop stirring a risotto.  I’m bad at following arbitrary rules like that so I usually stir and then run around cleaning for a second and then stir a few more seconds and then run around cleaning more of the kitchen.  I never go more than about 15 or 20 seconds without giving the pan a stir. 

Once the rice has absorbed almost all of the wine, you add stock.  Use a ladle (in case you hadn’t worked that out) and put in just enough to cover the rice…again.  And stir, stir, stir….  It’s important to stir…something about getting the starch to make the dish creamy…I’m not sure.  But whatever the reason, keep stirring.

Once the rice has absorbed almost all of the stock, add more stock.  And repeat.  I have no idea how many additions of stock it took so you’ll just have to taste test to see when the rice is no longer crunchy and is perfectly al dente.  My inability to count how many additions of stock it took is probably due to the fact that I was busily finishing the rest of the wine.  I highly recommend that step.

Finally, when it’s done and the risotto has absorbed almost all the stock (remember, according to Wolfgang Puck who probably knows more about risotto than I do, Risotto should always be liquid and should move around on the plate when you jiggle it) take it off of the heat.  This is where you throw in the butter and the cheese and stir until it’s melted into the risotto.  Then add the veggies and the sausage.  Top with the basil.  Serve.  Don’t forget the wine.  Cheesy risotto goes really well with wine.

Voila!

I hope you try it.  It’s delicious.

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