If you’ve got time and energy to leisurely sip on a glass of wine or two while preparing an easy, elegant meal, you’ve got all the qualifications you need to be an excellent risotto chef. And if you’ve got wild-caught crab legs from Alaska, some risotto rice, and a few basics in your kitchen, you’ve got all the ingredients you need to make an excellent risotto.
Risotto has a reputation for being a time- and labor-intensive meal, but it’s actually a chill dish to make. In fact, the most labor-intensive aspect of making an unforgettable crab risotto is the process of pulling fresh, succulent crab meat from their shells — by no means a difficult task with snap-and-eat snow crab or Dungeness. To make things easy for yourself, we recommend delegating this task to the friends and fam who will be enjoying the risotto along with you. But if you’re cooking solo, you’ll want to pick your crab meat from the shells beforehand to keep things streamlined as you’re at the stove.
Once you’ve got your risotto skills honed, you’ll need only about 30 minutes to pull together a crab risotto; if risotto is new to you, you might need an extra 10 minutes to figure out how to be as efficient as possible.
Here’s how to make a quick and easy risotto to serve 4 to 6 people.
1 ½ cup risotto rice
½ yellow onion
Generous splash of dry white wine
1 quart (4 cups) of yummy stock
1 package defrosted crab legs, meat picked from shells
Extra-virgin olive oil
High-quality butter (optional)
Additional herbs, flavorings, and seasonings
You’ll need a proper risotto rice in order to make risotto, since these varieties of rice have the optimal amount of starch to become creamy as they break down. They also are hearty enough to absorb plenty of flavor from your stock. You will likely be using arborio rice, as it’s readily available at most grocery stores; however, you can also use a more premium variety of risotto rice like carnaroli or vialone nano, which will produce slightly different results in terms of texture. If you’re a risotto fan, you should definitely try to make each variety at some point to appreciate the differences between each.
Additionally, you’ll want half a yellow onion finely diced (or about a half cup or so of a sweet cippolini onion). The onion will add sweetness and depth of flavor to the risotto, as well as some unctuous texture to the dish.
Have a bottle of dry white wine open, too, to splash into the pan — but also one that you’ll enjoy drinking with your finished dish. Go ahead and fill up your favorite wine glass with enough wine to get you through 20 minutes of stirring.
Perhaps the most important ingredient in your risotto is the stock that you’re using to hydrate the risotto rice. Whether you’re using a homemade or store-bought stock, make sure it has lots of flavor. It can be mushroom-based, a rich vegetable-based stock, stock made from fish bones or spot prawns, or even chicken stock.
For a crab risotto, you’ll want to use an extra-virgin olive oil as your cooking fat. It’ll add a lovely, clean flavor to the baes of your dish. Having some high-quality butter is optional, but can add richness to the finished risotto.
Any additional flavors are up to you. Do you want to add some parmigiano-reggiano? Some tender herbs? Or perhaps some Meyer lemon zest to add brightness to the dish? Would you like to add in roasted cherry tomatoes or sauteed wild mushrooms? Go in the direction of flavors that you tend to enjoy.
You won’t need special equipment: Just make sure you have a wide, heavy-bottomed pan (one with plenty of surface area), a small pot to warm your stock, and a wooden spoon.
Setting the Stage
The first thing you’ll want to do is to have your stock of choice warmed to a bare simmer in a small pot; you can bring it to a boil first, then turn down the heat. Using hot, as opposed to a room temp or chilled stock, will help keep your risotto cooking as efficiently as possible.
While your stock is warming, coat the bottom of your risotto pan with extra-virgin olive oil and warm the oil over medium heat. While that’s heating up, dice up your onion if you haven’t already.
As soon as your pan is hot, add the onion to the pan. Saute the onions for a few minutes until they’re translucent, no longer raw; you’re not looking to caramelize the onions, but rather to simply cook them enough to release some of their sugars.
You’ve now set the stage for a phenomenal risotto with a simple but reliable sofrito.
The Risotto Process
Once the onions are translucent, add all of your rice to the pan. If the pan is looking a bit dry, add more olive oil so that there’s enough to coat the risotto rice in a light sheen. Take a few minutes here to toast your risotto rice until the grains begin to pick up just a bit of color.
Carefully splash a ½ or so of white wine into the pan. You should hear a sizzle as the wine hits the pan. Wait until the wine has evaporated or been absorbed by the grains of rice, then add a ladle of broth to the pan, stirring constantly while allowing the liquid to be absorbed; you don’t need to stir vigorously here, just be relatively consistent and keep things moving and mellow; stirring helps to develop the creaminess of the final product by releasing the starches on the surface often grains. It’s totally okay to take a crab-cracking or wine-drinking break, as long as you don’t allow the liquid in the pan to burn off completely.
After the rice has absorbed most of this first ladle of broth, add another ladle and continue this process until the rice is cooked al dente. Depending on which variety of rice you’re using and how hot your range is, this could use up the entire quart of stock you have on the stove; if you need more liquid than that, just add in water toward the end to finish cooking the rice. The risotto will have expanded and thickened considerably, but it should still be thin enough that you can imagine it flattening out a bit once it’s spooned onto a plate.
Finishing Your Masterpiece
Turn off the heat, but keep your pan on the hot stove for the final moments. Check the rice for seasoning, adding in salt if needed, then stir in any butter or herbs until evenly incorporated into the risotto.
Finally, gently fold in the picked crab meat so that it can be warmed through. Or, simply mound warmed crab meat on top of the risotto as you’re plating it; serving the risotto on pre-warmed plates is a nice touch. Enjoy immediately. Buon appetito!