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Simple risotto recipes for cold winter nights

With restrained flavorings, such as saffron and butter, risotto is a satisfying side dish. Make it a main by adding chicken and prosciutto or even trout.

Risotto With Saffron, Butter, and Parmesan (Risotto Milanese).
Photograph by anthony tieuli; food styling by Sheila jarnes/Ennis inc.
Risotto with saffron, butter, and parmesan (risotto Milanese).

By New Year’s Eve many of us have had more than our fill of holiday treats and yuletide excess. For the last night of 2017 perhaps you’re looking to make a simpler meal, though one that still has a measure of glamour to accompany champagne toasts and the first kiss of the new year. Risotto fills the bill nicely. It’s easy yet stylish, especially if you choose sophisticated and restrained flavorings, such as the saffron and butter in classic risotto Milanese. It also takes beautifully to additions, and here, combinations of chicken, prosciutto and sage, or smoked trout and spinach transform it into a light yet satisfying, slightly swanky main course to help ring in a  . . .  happy 2018!

Risotto With Saffron, Butter, and Parmesan (Risotto Milanese)

Makes about 4 cups

I steer clear of main dishes with bold flavors or complex sauces, so as not to obliterate the saffron flavor in this side-dish risotto.

4        cups low-sodium chicken broth, warm

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¼      teaspoon crushed saffron threads

2        tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1         medium onion, finely chopped

Salt

1½    cups arborio rice

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¾      cup dry white wine, at room temperature

2        tablespoons butter

¾      cup finely grated Parmesan

1/3       cup minced chives, for garnish, optional

In a small bowl mix about ½ cup broth and the saffron, stirring until fragrant and the liquid is tinted, and set aside.

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In a medium saucepan over medium heat heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the edges of the grains begin to turn translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine, adjust the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is absorbed into the rice, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup warm broth and cook, stirring frequently, until absorbed into the rice, about 5 minutes. Repeat the process twice, using 1 cup of broth each time. Add the reserved saffron-broth mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until it is absorbed and the risotto is fragrant and tinted, appears moist and creamy, and the rice grains are al dente, about 3 minutes longer.

 Add the butter and stir to incorporate. Add the Parmesan and ¼ teaspoon salt and stir to incorporate. If necessary, adjust the seasoning with salt and the consistency with broth, and serve at once, sprinkling each portion with chives if desired.

Risotto With Chicken, Prosciutto, and Sage

Makes 6 cups

The flavors here mimic chicken saltimbocca.

1         tablespoon olive oil

2        skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each), trimmed, halved horizontally to make 4 thin cutlets, and blotted dry with paper towels

4        ounces prosciutto, cut into thin strips (about 1 generous cup)

1         medium onion, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

1½    cups arborio rice

¾      cup dry white wine, at room temperature

4        cups low-sodium chicken broth, warm

1½    tablespoons minced fresh sage

2        tablespoons butter

1/3       cup finely grated Parmesan, optional

1/3       cup chopped parsley

In a medium saucepan over medium heat heat the oil until shimmering. Add 2 of the chicken cutlets and cook, undisturbed, until bottom is lightly browned, about 2½ minutes. Turn them over and continue to cook until the second side turns opaque and cutlets appear cooked through, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer the cutlets to a plate. Repeat to cook the remaining cutlets; when they’re cool enough to handle bias-slice them into thin pieces, and set aside.

Return the saucepan to medium heat, add the prosciutto and cook, stirring frequently, until dark and crisp, about 6 minutes. With a slotted spoon, leaving as much fat in the saucepan as possible, transfer the prosciutto to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Return the saucepan to medium heat, add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the edges of the grains begin to turn translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine, adjust the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is absorbed into the rice, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup warm broth, the accumulated juices from the resting chicken, and half the sage and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is absorbed into the rice, about 5 minutes. Repeat the process twice more, using 1 cup of warm broth each time, and a third time using ½ cup broth, until the risotto appears moist and creamy and the rice grains are al dente, about 3 minutes longer.

Add the chicken, remaining sage, and most of the prosciutto and stir to incorporate it. Add the butter, Parmesan if using, ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste and stir to incorporate. Add most of the parsley and stir to incorporate. If necessary, adjust the seasoning with salt and the consistency with broth, and serve at once, sprinkling each portion with some of the remaining prosciutto and parsley.

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TIP: ABSORPTION IS THE KEY

For risotto, the rice should absorb the liquid as it cooks, so you want to limit evaporation by using a saucepan with tall sides. A wide, low-sided pan would allow the mixture to spread, creating extra surface area that promotes evaporation.
Anthony Tieuli
For risotto, the rice should absorb the liquid as it cooks, so you want to limit evaporation by using a saucepan with tall sides. A wide, low-sided pan would allow the mixture to spread, creating extra surface area that promotes evaporation.

Risotto With Smoked Trout and Spinach

Makes 6 cups

I think the smoked fish and spinach suit this risotto well as either a light dinner or a warm, fortifying, comforting breakfast, especially topped with a couple of poached or fried eggs, perhaps for New Year’s Day.

2        tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1         medium onion, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

1½    cups arborio rice

¾      cup dry white wine, at room temperature

4        cups low-sodium chicken broth, warm

6        cups (loosely packed) fresh baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)

8        ounces smoked trout, flaked into ½-inch pieces

2        tablespoons butter

Poached or fried eggs, 1 or 2 per diner, if desired

In a medium saucepan over medium heat heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the edges of the grains begin to turn translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine, adjust the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until the wine is absorbed into the rice, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup warm broth and cook, stirring frequently, until absorbed into the rice, about 5 minutes. Repeat the process twice more, using 1 cup of warm broth each time, and a third time using ½ cup broth, until the risotto appears moist and creamy and the rice grains are al dente, about 3 minutes longer.     

Add the spinach in 2 batches, stirring to wilt and incorporate the first before adding the second. Add the trout, butter, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste and stir to incorporate. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and stir to incorporate. If necessary, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and the consistency with additional broth, and serve at once, topping each portion with 1 or 2 poached or fried eggs if desired.

Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.’’ Send comments to cooking@globe.com. Follow us on Twitter @BostonGlobeMag.