Risotto is a dish that for me, seemed complex. After seeing how Lori over at Foxes Love Lemons swapped out the traditionally used grain, Arborio rice, for oats in her risotto I decided it was time to try it myself! We absolutely love oats at Erin Baker’s because of their versatility and for the added nutritional benefits. Usually oats are used in sweet foods so this savory way to add more oats into my diet was a welcome change! Luckily I learned quickly that this is not a complex dish, but it’s still decadent enough to impress your guests at your next dinner party of family gathering.
Risotto is an Italian rice dish made classically with Arborio rice & stock. Arborio rice is short grain rice that’s full of starch. As you cook the starch thickens the stock, helping to create the creaminess in risotto dishes. Often the texture of risotto can seem one-note, that’s why this brilliant idea to use steel cut oats was so appealing. If you have not ever had steel cut oats you may be thinking that they would be far more creamy and gooey than Arborio rice but steel cut oats and the more widely used thick rolled oats serve very different purposes. Steel cut oats are the first step in oat processing. Once the oat groat (the whole unbroken grain) has been toasted it is then chopped into pieces leaving behind small rice-like pieces. It has a longer cook time and a chewy texture compared to rolled oats which are put through a steam and rolling process. I actually enjoyed the texture of the oats in this dish compared to the rice because each grain is distinguishable and chewy. Aside from the improved texture of steel cut oats, they offer more fiber and iron while also containing fewer carbohydrates than Arborio rice.
This creamy dish usually includes parmesan cheese, vegetables and can include meat but it is very easy to make risotto a vegetarian or vegan meal! This recipe is just as delicious with butter and vegetable stock as it is using coconut oil and chicken stock. Some people believe that cheese makes everything better, for me I prefer this dish without the optional parmesan as the flavor can overpower the other ingredients. My favorite thing about this dish is how versatile it can be. That being said - one thing I would not change is the addition of herbs like rosemary, sage or thyme. You can use whatever blend you prefer but the herbs help to develop a depth of flavor that should not be left out.
The vegetables we chose were asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, leek and garlic. This made for a delicious meal but there’s no reason not to mix it up with your risotto! Some other recipes on my bucket list are butternut squash & sage vegan risotto, and a roasted sweet potato risotto with bacon!
Other great inclusions would be seasoned tofu, shrimp or roasted tomatoes. If you don’t like having grains as the focus of your meal, risotto can make a wonderful side dish too. In these instances it’s nice to keep the risotto meat-free and then have a full serving of protein in addition to your risotto where you can pack in some veggies.
This meal does not only have to be for a party, it’s a great option for weekdays too with a cook time of about 45 minutes start to finish. Starting with the vegetables you will want to make sure to clean your leek well. They are known to come with lots of dirt in the leaves so let them soak in water for a few minutes then shake them in the water to dislodge the dirt. Save the tough green part of the leek for soups and broth and only use the white part for this recipe. Only use the caps of the shiitake mushrooms, the stems need to be removed as they are very tough and leathery. If you don’t have shiitake mushrooms available don’t’ worry, any mushrooms you have will work!
We picked up a can of Pinot Grigio at Trader Joe’s, a great alternative to buying an entire bottle just to use in one recipe. You want to use a dry white wine so a Sauvignon Blanc would also work well with this recipe! As your oats cook pay attention to the consistency; they should be soft and chewy but not mushy. You will add in heated stock 1 cup at a time. If you drag your spoon across the pan and the liquid doesn’t immediately fill the space, you’ll know you need to add more broth. It’s important not to let the oats dry out and to keep cooking them. I hope you all enjoy this tasty meal. Let us know what fun risotto dishes you create!
This recipe is inspired by Foxes Love Lemons beautiful blog.
Optional: 1/2 Cup Parmesan
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