Brodie and Lauren hosted the December Iron Chef dinner a week before Christmas. The theme was “Crock Pot,” meaning everyone had to bring a dish prepared using a Crock Pot. Usually each couple brings anywhere from one to three dishes to our monthly events, but this time we had just four dishes total, due in large part to equipment limitations—because who owns more than one Crock Pot? The whole Crock Pot concept was a bit tricky, Jill pointed out. It was as if you really only had one attempt to get it right. If the dish didn’t turn out, you’d have lost anywhere between two and 24 hours. Game over.
I wasn’t sure what to expect for the meal, but gambled that at least one person would bring something entree-ish. And I remembered Julie previously talking about a fabulous Crock Pot dessert recipe. I figured a side dish would be a safe bet and hopefully compliment the other dishes. After a quick online search, I found a recipe for Parmesan Risotto, which was featured on an episode of the Today Show and is included in Slow Cooker Revolution, a compilation of Crock Pot recipes from Chris Kimball and chefs at America’s Test Kitchen. It sounded tasty and relatively quick and easy to prepare—which was the primary criterion this month, especially with the dinner being a week before Christmas and all.
Lauren and Brodie set up a long table in their living room, on which we set up our line of Crock Pot creations. Contributions included Italian beef sandwiches (Brodie apparently roasted the beef in a Crock Pot for more than 24 hours), two chocolate desserts, and the risotto. I can’t say it was one of our best efforts in Iron Chef history, but it was a nice array of warm comfort foods. Following is the recipe for Parmesan Risotto, which I couldn’t get enough of—fantastic flavor and texture.
Parmesan Risotto (recipe from Chris Kimball; serves 6-8)
Vegetable oil spray
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Risotto usually demands the cook’s attention from start to finish which is why this hands-off slow-cooker version is so appealing. Finished with butter, nutty Parmesan, a dash of lemon juice, and fresh chives, this risotto is so creamy that no one would suspect you didn’t spend time at the stovetop laboriously stirring it.
Coat slow cooker with vegetable oil spray. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in 12_inch skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in rice and cook, stirring often, until ends of rice kernels are transparent, about 3 minutes. Stir in wine and cook until fully absorbed, about 1 minute; transfer to slow cooker.
Bring broth and water to boil in saucepan. Stir 3 cups hot broth mixture into slow cooker. Cover and cook until rice is tender, about 2 hours on high.
Return reserved broth mixture to boil. Slowly stream 2 cups more hot broth mixture into slow cooker, stirring gently, until liquid is absorbed and risotto is creamy, about 1 minute.
Gently stir in Parmesan, chives, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and lemon juice. (Adjust risotto consistency with additional hot broth mixture as needed.) Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. (This dish does not hold well on warm setting.)