Risotto is one of the pressure cooker's triumphs. It's a dish that typically requires the cook's attention from beginning to end, and at least two pans to make (one for simmering stock and one for rice). With a pressure cooker, you get the same creamy results in a fraction of the time (after the initial sauté). The 20-minute-add-broth-simmer-and-stir part of the recipe is reduced to just five minutes of pressure-cooking time.
Temperature and pressure work together to make a perfect risotto. The pressure cooker nudges the temperature of the liquid inside beyond the usual 212°F boiling point up to 240°F to 250°F, cooking the rice at least four times faster. The pressure forces the cooking liquid deep into the rice kernel, making it more porous and willing to release its starch — the same starch that would ordinarily be coaxed out of each grain by the friction of constant stirring.
Mechanics aside, pressure-cooker risotto will convert its most skeptic critics to the fast side after the first bite — promise!
De-Baffling Conventional vs. Pressure-Cooking Times
Conventional recipes start their cooking time once the water has come to a boil or the oven is pre-heated. Similarly, pressure-cooker recipes start their cooking times once the cooker has reached pressure. Since the liquid inside the pressure cooker needs to boil (without pressure) to build pressure, this initial phase will take the same amount of time — using a pressure cooker or not. For example, when a conventional recipe says "15 to 20 minutes simmering time" that assumes the liquid has already come to a boil (about 10 minutes extra). An equivalent pressure cooker recipe will say "five minutes pressure-cooking time," which also assumes the water has come to a boil and the cooker has reached pressure (also about 10 minutes). The time-saving magic of pressure cooking starts once the food is actually cooking under pressure (five minutes vs. 15 to 20).
Potato risotto is not well-known outside of Italy. Risotto alle Patate is an Italian classic and, despite the fact that it doesn't use too many ingredients, surprisingly flavorful. It's an Italian comfort food that warms from the inside out, thanks to the potatoes that keep the dish hot and steamy. Typically, Italians like to peel the potatoes, but I prefer to leave the skins on for a little extra protein and fiber (and less prep, too).
Use either Arborio or Carnaroli rice. I've gotten decent results with the more economical supermarket "short-grain rice," although it won't be as creamy as using a classic risotto-making rice.
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio or any short-grain rice
1/4 cup white wine (a tart wine, such as pinot grigio or chardonnay)
1 medium golden, red, or new potato (about 8 ounces), chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (leave the skin on if desired)
4 cups salt-free vegetable stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (withhold if using purchased stock)
A few sprigs of thyme
Preheat the electric pressure cooker by pressing brown/sauté mode.
Add the olive oil and onion and sauté, stirring infrequently until the onion begins to soften. Add the rice, and stir constantly until it absorbs the onion juice and begins to dry again, about 5 minutes. Add the wine; stir constantly until the rice absorbs all of the wine. Add the potatoes, stock, tomato paste, and salt.
Close the lid and pressure-cook for 5 minutes at high pressure. When time is up, open the pressure cooker with Normal Pressure Release (twist the valve on the lid to the “open” or “venting” position). Remove the lid and tilt it away from you.
Quickly mix the contents and then remove the pressure cooker insert from the electric pressure cooker onto a heat-safe surface (to keep the risotto from overcooking).
Sprinkle with fresh thyme and serve immediately.
(Image credits: Karla Conrad)