I’ve only very recently broken into my cast iron pan, but I’ve wasted no time and cooked plenty of things in it. It’s great for meats and proteins obviously because it encourages the formation of a delicious golden crust, but something that not many people know is that a cast iron skillet is also incredible for making risottos. Think about it-the pan heats evenly across the surface area, which means that it’s not only great for risotto, but also makes risotto faster to make because the pan is built in a way to encourage evaporation of the liquid. As is the case with risotto, you’ll still have to be vigilant and do the taste test to check if the rice is cooked through obviously, but a few stirs now and then should be more than enough for this cast iron skillet risotto. Time to bid farewell to the exhausting stand-over-the-stove kind of risotto? Maybe.
As is the case with most risottos I set out to make, building layers of flavour are most important. Obviously, I begin by browning my meat, which the cast iron pan does quite expertly, may I add. Next, using a mixed variety of mushrooms helps immensely. A favourite of mine is porcini, but it’s a real pity that it’s so bloody expensive here in Mumbai. I choose to go instead with a mixture of shiitake, chanterelle or oyster and button mushrooms. The more the better. The mushrooms in a sense deglaze the pan and loosen the porcine bits to which I add onions and caramelise them for going forward with the recipe. I use my trusty pressure cooker chicken stock in this recipe for the risotto, but you could opt to use a stock cube instead and check for seasoning. If you don’t have both, just go with water. I’ve done that on some days, and it’s perfectly okay.
Some things to always remember when making risotto in a cast iron skillet- Risotto shouldn’t overcook and become mushy like how some people like their rice at home; there should still be a bit of bite to it. The risotto should be taken off the pan with enough liquid still in the pan, because a risotto dries out as it sits, and it will continue to do so until you take the risotto out of the still-hot cast iron pan.
Pork and Mixed Mushroom Risotto
Yield 3-4 servings
This risotto was made in a 9-inch cast iron skillet. This one-pan wonder risotto cooks quickly, so you'll have to be vigilant, and once the rice has cooked with a slight bit of bite to it, take the pan off the heat with a bit of liquid still inside and tip the contents into a serving plate else the risotto will continue to cook in the pan.
Minced Pork 250g
Garlic 4 cloves, minced
Cooking Red wine 2-3 tbsp
Honey 1/2 tsp
Thyme 1 sprig, leaves taken off
Black pepper 1/2 tsp
Onion 1, finely chopped
Chicken stock 1 litre
Extra virgin olive oil 3 tbsp
Button mushrooms 200g, chopped
Oyster Mushrooms 100g, chopped
Shiitake mushrooms 7g, about 3 mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 2 hours at least before starting and chopped
Arborio rice 1 cup
Parmesan cheese 1/4 cup, grated
Butter 3 tbsp for finishing
Coriander 3 tbsp, freshly chopped for finishing
Salt to taste
Combine the minced pork with the wine and minced garlic, honey, thyme, a few sprinkles of salt and black pepper. Being careful not to overwork the mince, make little meatballs with your hands and set aside.
Heat the cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once it is hot, add the extra virgin olive oil and drop the meatballs into the skillet, allowing them to brown on all sides evenly- about 2-3 minutes on each side. Use a slotted spoon to drain the pork balls and set aside leaving behind any fat they have rendered.
In this fat, add the mushrooms and the finely chopped onions sauteeing the mixture. Do not season. Keep tossing until both the mushrooms and the onion have browned. Drain these and keep aside as well.
To the pan with any remnant fat, add the arborio rice and toast this over medium-high heat constantly tossing it around for a good five minutes at least. Now add all the mushrooms and pork back to the pan with two to three ladlefuls of the stock and cook on medium, allowing the rice to absorb the first two to three ladlefuls before adding any more. The rice should not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Keep adding the ladlefuls of the stock right up till the rice when tasted, is cooked but with a slight bit of bite to it. Working quickly, add the three spoonfuls of butter to the pan along with the parmesan with some more stock, stirring everything to combine. There should still be liquid in your pan when you're taking the skillet off the heat because the risotto will continue to dry out as it sits. Check for seasoning and tip into the waiting plates.
Sprinkle over some chopped coriander and serve immediately with some red wine on the side.