To give rice more character so that it can stand on its own, sauté the grains briefly in butter, then simmer as usual, but with herbs and onions, and chicken stock or beef stock rather than water. Note that this is the French risotto, not the Italian method.
Yield: 3 cups cooked rice
1/3 cup finely minced onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup unwashed raw white rice (Carolina long-grain works well in a risotto)
¼ cup dry white French vermouth, optional
2 cups light chicken stock heated in a small saucepan
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium imported bay leaf (or a small herb bouquet—l small bay leaf, 1/8 tsp thyme, and 3 parsley sprigs tied in washed cheesecloth)
Sautéing the rice. Sauté the onions slowly in the butter for several minutes until soft and translucent. Stir in the rice and sauté, slowly stirring, for several minutes more until the grains, which first become translucent, turn a milky white. This step cooks the starchy coating and prevents the grains from sticking.
Braising. If you are using vermouth, stir it in now and let it boil down for a moment. Blend in the chicken stock, correct seasoning, and add the bay leaf or herb bouquet. Bring to the simmer, stir once thoroughly, then cover tightly and proceed —regulating heat so that the rice cooks at the slow simmer, slight movement and slow bubbling -without stirring again for 12 to 15 minutes, until almost tender—faintly al dente. Cover the pan and set aside for several minutes, while the rice finishes cooking.
Finishing the rice. While still warm, remove the bay leaf or herb bouquet, fluff the rice with a fork, and correct seasoning.
Suggested Special Equipment: A heavy-bottomed 6-cup saucepan with cover; a wooden fork
Vegetarian note: Substitute water for chicken stock, and double the onions and herbs.
Serving suggestions: Serve the rice as it is to accompany simply sauced fish or chicken dishes, or you may wish to make a more important vegetable or main course of it by folding in cream and/or grated cheese, or mushroom duxelles, diced sautéed eggplant or ham, and so forth.