I don’t remember exactly when this dish became a part of our holiday menu, but I think it was when I was in middle school. The juice of the red chard stains the rice a lovely magenta and the green of the leaves heighten the festive appeal. You can easily make a non-wine and/or vegan version by omitting the white wine and cheese. Since both do add some flavor, be prepare to add some extra lemon juice and salt to compensate.
Red Chard Risotto
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
2 cups arborio rice (this is for festive amount of risotto. Make less for a regular meal)
1-2 cartons of your preferred broth (I have used just water before and it works okay. Just add more spices)
2 bunches red or rainbow chard, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
Juice of 2 lemons
~1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a pot or large sauté pan. At the same time, add the broth to a small pot and bring to a gentle almost-simmer.
Sauté the onions, pepper flakes and black pepper until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the rice and stir well to coat the rice in the oil. Let the rice toast a bit so that the kernels start to become translucent. Turn the heat to medium.
Now pour a ladle or two of broth into the rice mixture and stir! Stir until the liquid is nearly all absorbed. You don’t want things getting so dry that it starts to burn, but there should be no broth trails when you run the spoon through the mixture.
Keep doing this broth-stir routine until the rice starts to look like almost-cooked rice, at which point do a taste test. You’ll know it’s time to add the wine and chard when the rice is mostly cooked through except for a little core of hardness. The rice is going to continue to cook while the chard is wilting, so you don’t want it to be too done at this point or you will get something more like chard porridge. You also don’t want it to be too al dente at this stage, or the poor chard will get overcooked while waiting for the rice to cook through.
Once the rice is nearly done, add the white wine (or just more broth) and the chard. Two bunches of chard is a lot to cram into a pot already full of rice, so you might want to pre-wilt some of it in the microwave or another pot. Just be sure not to lose any of the chard juice! Stir the chard in as best you can, then cover the pot. Check every five minutes to test for doneness or to add more broth if the rice is getting too dry.
When the chard is cooked to your liking, the rice should be done as well. If not, add broth as before until the rice is cooked. Now add the lemon juice and stir a final time.
Turn off the heat! If this is a vegan risotto, taste and add salt as needed. If you are going full-cheese, sprinkle about a 1/4 cup of the cheese and mix in. Is it cheesy enough? Maybe add more cheese. Continue until the cheese level is acceptable. You could use vegan cheese here if you want, but I’ve not found any that have the right texture, so when going vegan I prefer to just leave the cheese out altogether.
Feast! We like to eat this accompanied by Cauliflower and Caper Sauce.