One of my favorite cold weather dishes is risotto. Risotto is simple to make and you can liven the dish with a variety of different flavors and spices depending on your taste.
Risotto may seem complicated and challenging because so many people complain about the time and attention required to make it. But I find the process of making risotto very therapeutic; you can pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some music, and go to town for 30 minutes, alternating between adding broth, stirring, and tasting until the rice has soaked up all the flavors and moisture to give you the perfect, creamy one-pot wonder.
Risotto is a pervasive dish, celebrated today in a variety of countries and cuisines, but its origins are in Italy. Rice was a popular staple ingredient throughout Italy. In the Middle Ages, rice was cultivated in Northern Italy and it became an essential ingredient particularly as the slow cooking principles became popular. One of the original risotto dishes was Risotto alla Milanese, which is a basic risotto flavored with butter and saffron.
Almost every risotto recipe starts with butter and onions, sauteed in a large pot (I prefer my Dutch Oven) or deep skillet. You add the arborio rice and let it toast in the butter and onions, deglaze with white wine, and then add broth in small increments. Risotto is a great dish for a crowd, and you can make it both gluten-free as well as vegetarian depending on dietary restrictions (rice is gluten-free and you can use vegetable stock). Once the rice has absorbed the stock over time and becomes creamy and cooked all the way through, you can add cheese, vegetables, and top with a protein to complete the dish. In the recipe below, I started with brown butter, and added lots of Parmesan, fresh spinach, and pan-fried shrimp for a colorful and deeply flavored entree. Give it a try and don't be afraid of the risotto process!