Stirring be damned. The Instant Pot changes the risotto rules. —INGRAIN, Spring 2019
STORY / Lisa Futterman
Chances are you’ve never eaten my risotto. I have very strong feelings about my technique. I’m confident I make it very well, though only for people I really care about, and I never order it in a restaurant (unless I happen to be in Milan) because they usually don’t make it correctly. Risotto must be stirred and stirred and stirred, constantly, over the course of its 20-minute cooking time to allow the starch on the outside of the Arborio rice to melt into the dish and for the center of the rice grain to remain tender but toothy.
One day Amazon delivered my Instant Pot, and all the rice rules went out the window. For control freaks like me, sealing the pot and not being able to stir, prod, and test my little rice grains is a herculean challenge. Still, I needed some freedom in my rigidly regimented risotto making life. Reluctant but curious, I made a batch of risotto in my new “instant” cooking device while I walked the dog. It took all of seven minutes. It came out perfectly.
Those laying claim to long-lost Italian roots may faint at the mere mention of “instant” risotto, but rest assured most things haven’t changed in the time-honored recipe. You still need delicious homemade stock to make this risotto. The dish relies on simple, elegant, pure flavors, and a can o’ Swanson doesn’t cut it. Not coincidentally, you can make incredibly concentrated stock quickly and easily in your Instant Pot. I mean, you will save so much time in your new post-Instant Pot-owning life, you can make stock and risotto in the same evening (without, I might add, even washing the pot).
I’ve since found that when you start living “The Instant Pot Life,” you have a ton of free time on your hands. And I realize that I am not the first to shout praises of the Instant Pot. I was a late but enthusiastic adopter, holding on to my enameled cast-iron pot and risotto spoon to the bitter end. It can be scary—those spouts of steam and squeaks of terrifying pitch. (Just make sure your steam pressure valve is closed every time you seal the pot, NBD.) I’ve also heard folks complaining that the pot takes too long to heat up and come to pressure. I find those hands-off moments an absolute joy, leaving me free to call my congressman, knit a sweater, research how to ferment kombucha—any of the things I never have the bandwidth to concentrate on while I am caramelizing leeks or making sure my polenta doesn’t burn. Meanwhile, I can ideate and execute a hearty and sometimes healthy dinner in minutes and still have room in my schedule to make dessert.
If I sound like an ambitious overachiever, I am not. I am a procrastinator (who sometimes bakes cookies to avoid answering emails). And I am bossy, so JUST GET IN THE KITCHEN. Make or thaw some stock. Rustle up some Instant Pot risotto. Walk your dog. And congratulate yourself on owning the multitasking marvel that saved the weeknight dinner.
Pairing Citrusy, hoppy American-style IPA (Goose Island Green Line)
Serves 4 to 5
1 bunch asparagus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Olive oil 1 medium onion 1 clove garlic Kosher salt 2 cups arborio rice ½ cup dry white wine 1 large lemon 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock/broth Freshly ground pepper 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Pecorino)
To serve: pea tendrils, parsley leaves, or basil (handful, optional)
Instant Pot sauté function on high and prepare an ice bath. Add ½ cup water to pot, bring to a simmer, and add 1 bunch asparagus, roughly chopped (remove stem ends). Cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is bright green and tender, about 2 minutes. Strain asparagus, transfer to ice bath, and strain again after 1 minute.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil (keep pot on high setting). Add 1 medium onion, finely chopped + 1 clove garlic, minced + 2 teaspoons kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.
2 cups arborio rice into mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add ½ cup dry white wine + zest of 1 lemon, finely chopped (reserve lemon). Cook for (surprise!) 1 minute longer and add 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock/broth + freshly ground pepper, to taste. Seal pot and set to high pressure for 7 minutes.
Pressure using the quick-release method and open the pot. (Don’t worry if rice looks wet; the liquid will reabsorb very quickly.) Stir in asparagus + juice of reserved lemon, to taste + 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (or Pecorino) cheese, freshly grated. Season with salt + pepper. Garnish with a handful of pea tendrils, parsley leaves, or basil, if you’d like, and serve at once.