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For a good time, just add wine and risotto!

For a good time, just add wine and risotto!

Need to warm up? Want a filling meal? Feeling under-the-weather? Need something that will make a great lunch the next day? And best of all, something your kids will eat?

Then risotto is for you and your loved ones!

A perfect pairing with JL WOOD Chardonnay. It’s all you need to make any day better.

Our recommended choice is our No-oak Chardonnay or our orange label “JL”, which is also no oak. Either one will provide the straightforward flavors and aromas to enhance and compliment this savory dish. Nouveau would be another great choice, particularly if you want to have stronger wine aromas.


  • Carcass and uneaten spare parts of a roasted or roti chicken (from Costco or any large grocery store)
  • Roughly chopped onion
  • Roughly chopped fresh carrot
  • 1.5 to 2 cups of arborio rice (must use arborio!)
  • Olive oil, always extra virgin
  • 1 cup of JL WOOD no-oak chardonnay
  • 5 to 7 chopped garlic cloves
  • Third of a stick of butter
  • Pepper
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Dash of Tabasco
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Big squeeze of lemon juice
  • Optional: Handful of small cubes of ham (Instead of ham, you can substitute chopped chicken) (You can buy Boars Head ham in single thick slices in the packaged deli section of most grocery stores)
  • Optional: Handful of small pieces of vegetable, such as cubed zucchini (Instead of ham, you can substitute frozen peas)
  • Optional: Bay leaf
  • Optional: Fresh dill
  • Optional: Chopped parsley
  • Optional: Stalk of celery

Pro-tip: This recipe is best made over 2 days. First, make the chicken stock. Second, the risotto.

Make the chicken stock

Yes, you can buy chicken stock. But it ain’t cheap. $3.50 to $8.00 per box. Why do that when you can make your own and it’ll be ten times better. But yes, if you’re pressed for time and don’t like to plan ahead, buy a box of chicken stock. Make sure it says “stock” and not broth or soup.

The easiest way to make it is to use the carcass from a meal of home whole roast or store bought roti chicken.

Put the carcass in a stock pot — yes you can take a knife or cleaver and cut it down to size — and add roughly chopped onion, carrot and a few garlic cloves, chopped or whole. While I say carcass here, this is a good time to throw in the pot all the chicken parts that you decided not to eat, like the skin, legs, or maybe the wings.

Optionally, you can add some celery, parsley, bay leaf, and a stalk or two of dill.

Fill the pot with water until the carcass is mostly or completely covered. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about one hour.

Let cool and strain with a mesh strainer or a colander. Put the stock into the fridge if you’re not going to use it immediately.

Editorial comment: Home made chicken stock — your mother’s cure-all — is worth the extra work. And the result is a versatile ingredient you can use to make soups, sauces, and gravy.

Make the risotto

When you’re ready, warm up a saute pan (with straight sides) or a stock pot to medium. Add olive oil until the bottom is covered.

This next step is key: set a timer that you can see to 30 minutes. Apple Watches are perfect for this task. This will help you gauge how far along you are.

When the oil is at temperature, add most of the chopped garlic. Fry the garlic but don’t burn it.

Next, drop in all the rice. Use a cooking spoon to swirl it around into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring the rice for 3 minutes. You’ll notice that some of the rice will begin to show browning. That’s ok.

At the end of 3 minutes, pour in the wine. Add a pinch of salt and stir. When the wine is almost evaporated, start adding chicken stock in half cup increments. Keep stirring. And make sure none of the rice starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Note about the chicken stock: If you made home-made and had it in the fridge, it is likely to be “gloppy”. That’s ok. That glop has the good stuff — its just chicken fat and will liquify when its warm.

Rule: Never stop stirring. Never.

While you’re doing this, add a dash or two of Tabasco sauce. The Tabasco helps turn the risotto from boring to interesting.

Keep adding the chicken stock. The trick is not too add to much, so that the rice cooks in liquid, but not so much that you’re just boiling the rice.  I usually try to keep the liquid up the top of the rice.

Keep stirring. You may want to add some fresh ground pepper while you’re stirring.

If it’s cooking too fast, lower the heat to medium low.

After 20 minutes, begin tasting the rice. At the end, you want a soft al-dente feel in your mouth. Not hard but not mushy. At the 25 minute mark, the rice should be what I call hard al-dente — you can still feel the rice resist when you bit down.

This is the moment when you add the cubed zucchini and ham. The ham and zucchini should total about one cup of each.

After 2-3 minutes, add a handful of parmesan cheese, any remaining chopped garlic, and the third of a stick of butter.

Keep stirring until the risotto is soft al-dente, another 2 to 3 minutes.

Taste and adjust the salt level.

Lastly, add a few squeezes of fresh lemon and keep stirring. 

The final consistency should very “wet” but not sloppy.

Pro-tip: If you run out of stock towards the end, don’t worry about it. Just add tablespoons of water to get the consistency you want.

Serve on a plate or bowl. Garnish with parmesan, freshly ground pepper, and chopped parsley (optional). Enjoy!

And don’t forget, this risotto is perfect with JL WOOD Chardonnay.

Left-overs for lunch

In Italy, particularly in the north, you’ll find risotto offered at room temperature during lunch. I prefer it warm but if you’re in a rush, room temp is very convenient! When I do this, I put a few cherry tomatoes on the plate as well. And don’t forget the glass of wine.