Virginia Willis Blog

Baked Broccoli Risotto: Modern Comfort

Baked Broccoli Risotto on www.virginiawillis.com

Broccoli Rice Casserole

Somewhere along the way when women were “liberated” from the kitchen, processed and convenience foods became Standard Operating Procedure. One-pot casseroles became the go-to for many busy moms and families. An all-time favorite is Broccoli Rice Casserole. What’s not to love? Tender, creamy rice topped with cheese. Broccoli Rice Casserole is serious comfort food. What about modern comfort? How about Baked Broccoli Risotto?

Baked Broccoli Risotto on www.virginiawillis.com

Most often old-fashioned Broccoli Rice Casserole is made with frozen broccoli and a familiar red-and-white can or two of cream of mushroom soup. The truth of the matter is that all too often those “shortcuts” are packed with salt and food additives. I’ve even seen recipes for Broccoli Rice Casserole with additional mayonnaise and cream cheese. The broccoli is an afterthought – a sad, soggy garnish.

My updated, upscale version, Baked Broccoli Risotto, is made with fresh, wholesome ingredients. Yes, it takes a little more time, but it’s pretty much a dump-and-stir that’s nearly all “hands-off” in the oven. And, I personally really like recipes with ingredients that you can pronounce and don’t need a degree in science to decipher.

Baked Broccoli Risotto on www.virginiawillis.com

The Long and Short of It

Old-fashioned Broccoli Rice Casseroles are often made with long grain rice. My Baked Broccoli Risotto counts on the natural starch in the rice for creamy comfort. Varieties of rice are grouped as long, medium, or short grain according to their length and width. Long-grain rice is about four times as long as it is wide, medium grain is twice as long, and short grain is almost round. Long grain rice contains less starch and shorter grain rice contains more starch. Remember this by thinking about the letter S: The Shorter the grain means higher Starch content and the Stickier the rice will be. Short = Starchy and Sticky.

Baked Broccoli Risotto on www.virginiawillis.com

Typically, risotto is made by adding heated liquid to the short grain rice, known as Arborio, a little at a time. This cooking technique activates the starch on the outside of the grain of rice, resulting in creamy risotto. Risotto is incredible when properly prepared, but frankly, it can be a bit tedious standing and slowly, constantly stirring a pot for 30 minutes. In my recipe for Baked Broccoli Risotto, the risotto is baked, then stirred vigorously at the end of cooking to activate the starch and make the risotto creamy. The broccoli is folded in and the “casserole” is topped with a judicious amount of cheese. Here, I am using broccoli, and of course you could use asparagus, mushrooms, or even seafood. Baked Risotto gives a whole new meaning to comfort food.

Smothered and Covered

Speaking of comfort food, last week I mentioned my new partnership with PeachDish, a nationwide meal delivery kit service. Here’s a short video featuring my kit for Smothered and Covered Chicken,  shipping this week!  If you order it and give it a try, please let me know what you think. We’d greatly appreciate your input.

Giving Back

Since food and cooking bring me so much joy, I  want to share some information about a couple of upcoming events that are about giving back to the community. In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th, I am co-hosting an event with Community Farmers Markets  celebrating the amazing women chefs, farmers, and artisans in the region. The event will be from 6-8 pm. The food and beverages will be prepared by a team of female chefs and bartenders and sourced from local female farmers and female artisans. There will be a silent auction featuring locally created products, and an awards ceremony.  Community Farmers Markets are responsible for the markets in East Atlanta Village, Decatur, and Grant Park. We’ll be featuring cuisines from all over the world according to the heritage or specialty of the chef. We’ve got Italian, French, Southern, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan, and Caribbean dishes on the menu. Ticket priced includes all food and beverages. It’s a great deal at only $50. Proceeds will endeavor cooking programs at the farmers markets, educational outreach, and allow the markets to aid in doubling the SNAP programs. Tickets are limited and can be purchased here.

I am on the Advisory Board for the Atlanta Community Food Bank and I feel strongly about giving back to the community and being a good citizen. The biblical passage “to much is given, much is demanded” rings very solid with me. ACFB is hosting the Hunger Walk on March 13. You can join a team or create your own; I’m supporting Team Janice and Jeremy in honor of my friend Janice, the former Marketing Director at ACFB who lost her battle with cancer in 2013. Hunger Walk is a great, fun-filled day for family and friends. The event is built around a 5K walk/run through historic downtown Atlanta. The entire event lasts about 4 hours, with onsite registration beginning at noon (12:00 pm) at Turner Field. There’s live entertainment, food vendors, sponsors tents, kid-zone activities and more. Family, fun, and fellowship for a good cause. Sounds pretty fantastic. And, best of all, for each dollar raised, the ACFB is able to procure $9.21 in groceries!

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoy my Baked Broccoli Risotto! Let me know what you think.

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia

 Baked Broccoli Risotto on www.virginiawillis.com

Baked Broccoli Risotto

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups reduced fat low sodium or homemade chicken stock, divided
1 head broccoli
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 350°F. Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a heavy-duty Dutch oven. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente.

Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli about 10 minutes before the risotto is ready to come out of the oven. Cut the head into florets. Peel the stem and slice it in into “coins” about 1/4-inch thick. Place the prepared stems in a glass bowl and add 1/4-cup water. Cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook in the microwave until just barely tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from the microwave and add the florets to the partially cooked stems. Cover again and cook in the microwave until the florets are bright green and the vegetables are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain, discarding the water. Set the broccoli aside.

After 45 minutes, remove the risotto from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, half of the Parmesan, wine, butter, salt, and pepper, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or a whisk until the rice is thick and creamy, about 2 minutes. Fold in the steamed broccoli. Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and return to the oven until melted, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

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Virginia Willis cookbooks on www.virginiawillis.com

photographs by Virginia Willis

Copyright © 2016 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

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