In my first post on risotto I gave a few pointers on the process of cooking risotto. It would be a great place to start if you are new to risotto. The broccoli risotto from today's post is different from the corn and zucchini risotto from that first post only in the cooking and timing of the vegetable additions. For the corn and zucchini risotto, the vegetables are cooked ahead and folded in at the last minute. This is probably the most common way of adding vegetables to a risotto. It gives an effect of creamy rice, studded with distinct flecks of flavor...in this case, sweet corn and nutty zucchini.
In the broccoli risotto, the broccoli is cooked from its raw state in the risotto itself—adding the stems at the very beginning with the onions and the florets only a few moments after the first addition of stock. The final effect is of a harmonious unity of broccoli and rice. If added early enough, the florets will soften and begin to fall apart into the risotto—which I think is nice...but they could be added a bit later if you prefer they remain intact.
You could of course prepare the broccoli risotto in the more traditional manner (like the one with corn and zucchini). Blanch the florets separately to the doneness you prefer. If you like, this may be done in the stock used to make the risotto. The blanched florets would then be added during the last five minutes of cooking. The stems may also be blanched (they will take a bit longer) and added with the florets...or sweated with the onions as in the recipe below. I imagine the risotto made with this alternate method would be delicious too.
As for the version I am posting today, adding the broccoli so early may sound like a recipe for disaster. But I assure you it is astonishingly good this way. While it isn't exactly what is known as "long cooked broccoli"...it is close. If you have never made (or tasted) long-cooked broccoli—perhaps out of a childhood revulsion to overcooked broccoli—you should try this dish. You won't believe what a great flavor you have been missing.
4 to 5 T. unsalted butter, divided
1/2 of a small onion, finely diced (about 3 oz.)
1 clove of garlic, minced
3/4 c. Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1/4 c. white wine
2 to 3 c. hot chicken stock
1/3 c. finely grated Pecorino
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Shaved Parmesan or Pecorino for garnish
Cut the florets off of the broccoli stems and coarsely chop (or cut into very small florets); set aside. If necessary, peel the stems. Cut the stems into a small, rough dice. You will have about 1 1/2 cups chopped florets and 3/4 cups diced stems.
Heat 2 1/2 T. of the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, broccoli stems and garlic and sweat until quite soft—about 10 minutes. Add more butter if the pan seems dry.
Add the rice and continue to cook for a minute or two—it should begin to sizzle in the butter. Add the wine and cook until the pan is nearly dry. Begin to add the stock. Add enough so that the stock is at the same level as the rice in the pan. Adjust the heat so that the rice cooks at a slow simmer. When the pan is nearly dry,
add more stock (to the same level) and season lightly with salt & pepper. Continue cook the rice, stirring at regular intervals and adding more stock as each addition is absorbed.
When you add the broccoli florets will depend on how done you want them to be. If you want them to be soft and falling apart, add them after the rice has been cooking for 5 minutes. If you want them to be "just" cooked, add them after 10 or 12 minutes. I prefer to add them after 5 minutes. When you add them, add a bit of salt to help them begin to release their liquid. (Resist the temptation to add lots of extra liquid after adding the broccoli...the risotto will seem a bit dry at first because of the added bulk of the broccoli, but gradually, as you continue to stir and add liquid at regular intervals, the balance of liquid and solids will return.) Continue to cook, stir and add stock (tasting and seasoning as necessary) until the rice is al dente (i.e.—has texture but is not at all crunchy)—a total of 20 to 25 minutes from the time of the first addition of liquid.
The final consistency of the risotto should be fluid, but not soup-y. Increase the heat to reduce the broth quickly if the risotto is done, but still soup-y...add a bit more broth if the risotto is done but feels "tight". Remove from the heat and stir in another 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter—stirring until the risotto is creamy. Fold in the cheese. After adding the cheese, you may need to correct the consistency again with a splash more broth. Taste and correct the seasoning and serve immediately, garnished with shaved Parmesan or Pecorino. Serves 2 generously as an entrée...serves 3 or 4 as a side dish.