Risotto and pasta are often compared in the culinary world, as both are versatile and can be altered to fit the season and its bounty of ingredients. We also know them as ultimate comfort foods. In Italian cuisine, risotto and pasta are the two first courses par excellence.
Chef Dennis Merritt’s fresh take on the grain is a prime example of its versatility. This delicious Multi-Grain Risotto recipe can not only elevate your dinner menu but also help create a truly flavor-packed dining experience. Also, don’t be too shy to add other ingredients here and there for your own special touch!
Chef Dennis Merritt, Chef de Cuisine of The Pink Grouse at Quirk Hotel Charlottesville, joins the Charlottesville food scene after working his way through some of Virginia’s top kitchens. He offers a hyper-seasonal menu at The Pink Grouse, carefully curated into a modern menu featuring produce and ingredients from many locally sourced farmers. Merritt even worked under Chef Grant Achatz in Chicago at one of the most demanding kitchens in the culinary industry. He strongly believes in the importance of the overall artistry that goes into each dish and strives to feature innovation, seasonality and creativity.
“I don’t give myself restrictions, allowing the culinary experience for diners to be unique through every bite,” Merritt says. “I love incorporating seasonal items or putting a twist on a well-known dish. I’ve been fortunate to have access to so many of the region’s most impressive artisans, purveyors and farmers to source from and to be inspired by while reimagining The Pink Grouse.”
“I love incorporating seasonal items or putting a twist on a well-known dish.”
For centuries, the use of rice has been a major staple in cultures all around the world. Risotto, a northern Italian favorite, is often made with broth derived from meat, fish or vegetables until it reaches a creamy consistency. Over the years, risotto has became an innovative dish withstanding the test of time while still leaving diners satisfied and full.
This multi-grain risotto recipe gives room for the chef’s creativity, allowing you to replace some of the vegetables in the recipe with greens you might like a tad more. For example, feel free to substitute in peas, spinach leaves and asparagus. If you’re looking to be more health conscious, add more high fiber ingredients to the mix, such as cherry tomatoes, brown rice and chopped celery.
Which Rice or Grain Works Best for Risotto?
There are many varieties of rice to choose from, and some are more suitable than others for preparing risotto. Rices are divided into common, semi-fine, fine or superfine groups based on the shape of the grain and the way it is cooked. Rices that fall within the fine and superfine groups hold better in cooking and are ideal for using in a risotto recipe because they cook more slowly and remain more al dente. Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano are three kinds of traditional risotto rice that have a high starch content. They also all hail from northern Italy…coincident we think not.
Multi-Grain Risotto Recipe
- 250 g dry grain of your choice
- 800 g water
- 30 g fresh thyme
- 3 ea crushed garlic
- 1 ea bay leaf
- 1/2 ea yellow onion, halved
- 1 ea shallot, halved
- 1 ea carrot, peeled and quartered
- 15 g salt
- 2000 g heavy cream
- 1 ea shallot, halved
- 50 g thyme
- 50 g rosemary
- 50 g marjoram
- 2 ea crushed garlic
- Place each grain of your choice in a separate pot with Mire Poix (a mixture of sautéed chopped vegetables used in various sauces), and cook on medium heat until tender.
- Once tender, pour all into a baking pan to cool.
- Once cool, pull out all but the grain and set aside. Do this with four different grains.
- In a 4-quart sauce pot, combine cream and Mire Poix, and reduce on low heat to 1,000 g. Then strain.
- Mix the four grains with half of the double cream, a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt in a medium pot on low heat until creamy and hot, folding not stirring.
- Finish with Parmesan cheese.
What to Pair with Risotto?
Wine lovers will be happy to hear that this Multi-Grain Risotto Recipe pairs wonderfully with Virginia-made wines, making dinner an occasion rather than just an ordinary night. When pairing wine with a heartier risotto using more of a cream base, it’s best to find a white wine that’s not too intrusive either in terms of fruit character or tannin, but that can also stand on its own. Our state grape, Viognier, is the perfect pairing. Jefferson Vineyards‘ Viognier shows peach, apricot and lychee on the nose, and a delicately balanced palate preceding a round and lengthy finish.
Virginia native,, is currently attending school at the University of Virginia and loves to write about the many adventures that comes with traveling around the globe.
JANINE AQUINO has 30 years of business consulting and entrepreneur experience. Her focus lies in Agritourism—the grower, the producer. Having grown up in the Hudson Valley region of New York, on a small family vineyard, she learned grape growing, winemaking and distribution and is the 4th generation in her family to continue in the wine industry. While in NY, she studied food and wine pairings at the CIA and worked for a couple of wineries lining the Hudson River. She then received an opportunity to buy a boutique winery in Ohio, which she did and ran for 10 years. Opportunities were presented to her in VA to take the reins of a couple startup vineyards and fully develop them. After working with the wineries, she started Aquino Baron Consulting, an agritourism consulting company focused on wineries and cideries. She is a member of the Virginia Wineries Association, Virginia Vineyards Association and Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail, and sits on the Waynesboro Tourism Advisory Board.
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