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Caramelized Onion Risotto

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Serves 4 to 6

  • by Maryellen Driscoll from Fine Cooking
    Issue 121

Onions are often used in risotto, but not usually as the main ingredient. In this soothing dish, you get a bite of beautifully browned, sweet, soft caramelized onions in every forkful. Aged Gouda gives the risotto a slightly toasty butterscotch flavor, but the more traditional Parmigiano-Reggiano is also delicious.

  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lb. yellow onions (about 4 medium), halved through the root and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 oz. finely grated aged Gouda or Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup on a rasp grater)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the onions and reduce the heat to medium. Cook without stirring until the bottom of the pot begins to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and stir with a wooden spatula. Continue to cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot frequently and adjusting the heat as necessary, until the onions are well browned, 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a 3-quart saucepan, combine the broth with 2 cups water and set over medium heat until steaming hot.

Transfer the onions to a small bowl, cover, and keep warm. Add about 1/2 cup of the broth mixture to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot with the wooden spatula until any stuck-on bits are released. Pour the liquid back into the broth mixture. Wipe out the pot.

Melt 2 Tbs. of the butter in the pot over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring gently, until glossy and translucent around the edges, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute. Ladle enough broth over the rice to just cover (about 1/2 cup) and simmer, stirring often, until most of the broth has been absorbed (test by running a spoon through the rice; no broth should pool on the pot bottom). Continue to add the broth in this manner, stirring often, until the rice is tender but still has a bit of resistance when you bite into it, 20 to 30 minutes. (You may not need all of the broth.)

Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs. butter, the cheese, and all but 1/3 cup of the onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately, topped with the remaining onions.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 440; Fat (g): 18; Fat Calories (kcal): 160; Saturated Fat (g): 7; Protein (g): 12; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): 59; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1.5; Sodium (mg): 140; Cholesterol (mg): 25; Fiber (g): 3;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I've been making risotto for quite a while and knew a few changes I would want to make to the recipe. With the changes implemented, it was fantastic. As much as we love caramelized onions, I would never have thought to use them for risotto. We love mushrooms and I wanted an additional texture to my risotto so I sautéed cremini and white button mushroom with a little butter, sea salt and cracked white pepper until they were very brown and free of water content. I also caramelized a bit more onion than recommended. During the risotto cooking time, I added about 1/2 the mushrooms and about 1/4 the caramelized onions to weave the flavor throughout the risotto. From experience, I know that risotto benefits from a little additional flavor during the cooking process, although I am sure the recipe was good as is.

I've been making risotto for quite a while and knew a few changes I would want to make to the recipe. With the changes implemented, it was fantastic. As much as we love caramelized onions, I would never have thought to use them for risotto. We love mushrooms and I wanted an additional texture to my risotto so I sautéed cremini and white button mushroom with a little butter, sea salt and cracked white pepper until they were very brown and free of water content. I also caramelized a bit more onion than recommended. During the risotto cooking time, I added about 1/2 the mushrooms and about 1/4 the caramelized onions to weave the flavor throughout the risotto. From experience, I know that risotto benefits from a little additional flavor during the cooking process, although I am sure the recipe was good as is.

I've been making risotto for quite a while and knew a few changes I would want to make to the recipe. With the changes implemented, it was fantastic. As much as we love caramelized onions, I would never have thought to use them for risotto. We love mushrooms and I wanted an additional texture to my risotto so I sautéed cremini and white button mushroom with a little butter, sea salt and cracked white pepper until they were very brown and free of water content. I also caramelized a bit more onion than recommended. During the risotto cooking time, I added about 1/2 the mushrooms and about 1/4 the caramelized onions to weave the flavor throughout the risotto. From experience, I know that risotto benefits from a little additional flavor during the cooking process, although I am sure the recipe was good as is.

This is excellent! I did a few tweeks. Because we were having it with baked chicken, I used only chicken broth, not broth and water. This made a definite chicken flavor to the dish. The broth used to deglaze the pan, I kept separate and used it after the wine reduced. This turned the rice a toasted brown, and kept all the flavor in the rice. And when I went to use the parmesan, I found it had molded. I did have some Gruyere and used that instead. It was wonderful, but a bit "stringy". Will make with parm next time. I made a half recipe (for just 2), but will make a full recipe next time so I can have leftovers!

I had to make this once I saw it pop up on Fine Cooking's Facebook and it did not disappoint! So rarely can I get away with a meatless dinner but this was rich and hearty. Another one to add to my "go to" risotto list.

This is delish!!! It's a keeper, that I will be making over and over again!

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