We have to thank the Italian cook who invented risotto. The first person to stir hot stock into simmering rice discovered a way to make rice creamier and more flavorful than before. That culinary moment gave birth to one of the most enduring comfort foods we know, risotto.
Fast forward to today, and I’m looking for a way to get the same lush, creamy risotto without spending half an hour stirring the pot. Spoiler alert, I baked it and stirred it at the end. I even made it with brown rice, for a warming, whole-grain dish that will become a favorite at your house.
This Baked Brown Rice Risotto With Mushrooms takes care of itself as you go about your business, and can even share the oven with another dish, for a whole meal.
The most important part of making risotto starts at the store. Short- or medium-grain rice is the only kind of rice that makes a good risotto because of the balance of starches in the grain. Arborio rice, the Italian rice used for risotto, is a short-grain rice. Short- and medium-grain rice contains a type of starch that cooks up soft and creamy. Long-grain rice is higher in another type of starch, which cooks up firm, keeping the rice separate and fluffy.
What you want in a risotto is for the starch to spill out of the softened rice and thicken the simmering, flavorful liquids. It’s like an instant sauce for the finished rice.
Arborio and other white rices have had the outer bran layer scraped off, which makes it easier to get those starches in the core of the grain to flow into the broth. To make risotto with brown rice, you need to cook it long enough to really soften the bran, and then give it a vigorous stirring when it’s all tender.
You will also need a flavorful stock for cooking the rice. I used boxed vegetable broth, and if I have some time, I might make a stock with dried mushrooms to really add mushroom flavor. White wine, sautéed onions and meaty cremini mushrooms complete the dish.
For a finishing touch, sear some sliced portabella caps for a garnish, and you’ve got yourself a great risotto, with a tip of the hat to that anonymous Italian risotto maker!
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan” and “Plant-Based Meats.” Find her at robinasbell.com.