Painless Pressure Cooker Risotto

or a flavor infused canvas for culinary delight

Risotto is a challenge.  There are many ways to make risotto, and most of them require a significant amount of hands on time for stirring, as well as well developed arm muscles.  Both of which I do not possess.  So I have been trying to find a satisfactory "short cut" or at the very least a more fool-proof way to prepare it.  I tried the pre-packaged boxes of risotto, very Rice A Roni-esque, but they were certainly not fool proof as I found it challenging to get it to come out the same way twice.  I then tried a slow cooker version - not all together bad, but it did lack the signature risotto al dente style in the end (a bit mushy for my tastes, and it did not reheat terribly well for leftovers).

So what tools did that leave me?  Aside from momentarily considering the development of a self stirring pan, much along the lines of a Whirly Pop stove top popcorn maker, I decided that my pressure cooker should at least have a shot at this.  A pressure cooker* is fantastic for the amount of time it saves in cooking tougher cuts of meat and infusing flavors into all manners of food stuffs.   So I took a deep breath, knowing full well that it could potentially result in a burnt mess if the liquid ratio wasn't right, and gave it a try.  Much to my delight, and my husband's relief,  it worked (he can only take so many failed ventures before he gives up the optimism and faith in my experiments).  It was al dente, it was flavor infused, and - best of all - it was done with minimal arm muscle strain!  If you are worried about liquid levels, you can add a half cup extra of the stock - just be warned that you may have to simmer it out at the end.  The leftovers were great reheated as is, and they also made quite delightful little risotto cakes the next day.  After this recipe, you and your pressure cooker may just feel a little bit closer, give it a try:

1 ½ c risotto
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3 c hot water
1 tsp chicken base
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp minced onion
Salt and pepper

½ c Parmesan cheese (optional)
2 tbsp Italian style bread crumbs (optional)

Hardware: pressure cooker

1. Heat the olive oil and butter in the open pressure cooker base. Add the garlic and onion, saute until the onion starts to become translucent (a couple minutes). If you are adding other hardy ingredients such as shallots, mushrooms, or leeks you can add them at this time as well.

2. Stir in the risotto (arborio rice) and saute, stirring constantly, for about 2-3 min to lightly brown.

3. In a separate container, combine the hot water and chicken base, stirring until it is dissolved fully. You can use 3 cups of chicken stock in place of the the water and base combination.

4. Carefully stir the chicken base mixture into the pot with the risotto. Stir to combine the ingredients. Cover and secure pressure cooker lid.

5. Bring the heat up and cook for 10 min once pressure has been achieved (see the manufacturer guidelines on your cooker for how to identify when it is heated to high pressure). Enjoy the aroma as the flavor infusion fills your house... Release pressure, per manufacturer guidelines and carefully remove the lid.

6. Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula if you have one to stir the contents of the cooker. Add the Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs if desired. If you would like a more liquid base, I would recommend leaving out the breadcrumbs. If it appears to have more liquid then you would like, I would add a little extra. Season with salt and pepper.  

You can add in any "softer" vegetables or other ingredients at the end, like sweet peas, sauteed bacon, or steamed asparagus. Adjust the seasoning and extra ingredients to your own tastes. This risotto can serve as a side dish, a platform on which to serve your main dish (either meat or seafood work well), or as a main dish when you dress it up with a few extra veggies and sauteed chicken, for example. Give it a try - there are any number of ways to make this flavor infused, relatively blank, canvas into your own culinary delight. It's simple, it's fast, and it's quite delicious in it's own right - enjoy!

* While I have been on good terms with my pressure cooker for as long as I can remember, I know that not everyone shares my affection for this oft forgotten kitchen tool, but stick with me on this one and it just may change your mind.

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