By Chris Crowl, Durango. Chef / Owner of Eolus

Risotto can be a side dish or a main course, and can be a great way to turn some leftovers into something new and delicious for your next meal. If you are reheating, add some more stock or liquid to help it get creamy again. This risotto recipe includes roasted fall vegetables, but I love to use other seasonal products as well. Mushrooms, tomatoes, greens, cheeses, and fruit can elevate a simple rice dish, giving it many variations depending on what you add to it.

Cook the rice with the butter until it’s toasted & brown. By doing this, you start building the flavor of the dish right away with the nutty flavor of the rice and butter browning together. Pre-cooking the rice (risotto is rice, not pasta as is commonly thought) beforehand helps prevent overcooking later in the process.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4 – 6)

3 ounces butter
1 onion
1 clove garlic
½ cup white wine
1.5 cups arborio rice
4-6 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
Bay leaf
Fresh thyme sprigs
Parmesan cheese, shredded
Salt
Pepper
Your choice of carrots, turnips, parsnips, fennel, beets or any other fresh vegetable
Basil oil (made by soaking basil stems in extra virgin olive oil for 3 days minimum for a flavorful oil to use when you like)

METHOD (serves 8)
Wash the vegetables and cut into a uniform size, which will help them cook evenly. Toss in basil oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven (425) for 20-40 minutes until brown and soft. If vegetables are brown but not cooked, turn down the oven a bit to finish cooking.
Heat stock in a separate pan and keep at a low boil while you are cutting onion and garlic.
Add butter to a large flat-bottom pan and, when melted, add the rice and begin to cook on medium-high flame. Let the rice toast for 5-10 minutes until brown and nutty. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add 2-3 good pinches of salt and few grinds of pepper, bay leaf and a few sprigs of thyme. Add the wine and reduce till almost dry.
Now start adding the hot stock in 3 stages, covering the rice with the stock and stirring. Turn heat to medium low and let cook until almost dry, stirring often about 5-10 minutes for each stage. The stirring helps the grain release its starch and give risotto its creamy texture. In the last stage, add roasted vegetables and cheese and taste the rice. If it is soft and cooked, you might not need to add the last bit of stock. The risotto will continue to cook as you serve it, so don’t overdo it in the pan. It should have a creamy consistency and slowly come back together after you move a spoon through it. Top the risotto with more of the vegetables and cheese. Finish the dish with herbs or sprouts. A drizzle of vinegar can give a bright, fresh flavor component as well.