As the weather cools down, we begin to crave comfort food. We all have a favorite food that is as satisfying as it is nostalgic—Montenegrins are no different. Some of the best memories are made around the dinner table, and we can’t think of a better way to make memories with family than sharing comfort food at Hotel Podgorica in Podgorica, Montenegro.
From 1420 to 1797, Venice controlled some of Montenegro, and its Italian influence remains in Montenegrin cuisine, specifically in their rižoto (risotto.) There isn’t anything quite like risotto, a creamy, luxurious rice dish that you get by toasting hard-grained rice in a little butter, stirring in chopped vegetables and other ingredients and adding hot stock bit by bit, cooking slowly until the rice is al dente. It can be as simple as rice, white wine, stock and a little Parmesan cheese stirred in at the end, or more elaborately studded with vegetables, seafood or meat. Risotto is not fast food; it takes time, attention and, most of all, tender loving care.Since Montenegro touches the Adriatic Sea, Rižoto sa Gamborima (Risotto with Prawns) is the ultimate comfort food – warming, satisfying and an incredibly impressive, extra special dish. Hotel Podgorica’s Risotto with Prawns is creamy goodness, loaded with subtle flavors of the sea. With every bite, you feel the comforts of home and freshness of the sea. Here’s a simple risotto recipe that my family has used for many years to enjoy as you transition from fall into winter.
8 cups chicken broth
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup finely chopped parsley
Warm the broth in a saucepan set over low heat.
In a separate Dutch oven or wide, deep sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until they are soft and beginning to brown around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir thoroughly to make sure it is coated with the butter and onions. Cook the rice for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the apple juice, stirring and scraping the pan until the wine has evaporated.
Begin incrementally adding the warm broth one ladle at a time, stirring frequently. Wait to add another ladle until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed by the rice. This gradual addition of liquid is key to getting the rice to release its starch and create its own delicious sauce, so don’t rush this step. If the broth is evaporating very quickly, or the rice is boiling hard, turn the heat down so you just see a gentle simmer and occasional plop. Expect this stage to take about 18 minutes, and to add most of the broth.
Begin tasting the rice after about 13 minutes to gauge how far it has cooked. The risotto is ready when the rice is still a bit chewy, and the dish has the consistency of thick porridge. When the risotto is ready, turn off the heat and stir about 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
Serve immediately, spreading risotto in pasta bowls and topping with prawns and other seafood and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
What’s your favorite food to eat when the weather cools?
Disclosure: The above was sponsored by Hotel Podgorica, specialists in luxury cuisine perched on the edge of the suspended riverbank above the Morača River Canyon.