If you’re like me, and you watch way too many competitive cooking shows, you know risotto is often the kiss of death for anyone hoping to win the big prize.

I still quake in my flip-flops thinking about the time that Wolfgang Puck “helped” an aspiring Food Network star because she didn’t get the dish even remotely right. I felt for the girl, particularly because she seemed nice enough and grew up in Wisconsin like I did, but I couldn’t believe she didn’t hear my yelling through the TV…Whatever you do, DON’T MAKE RISOTTO FOR WOLFGANG PUCK.

Needless to say, the girl didn’t get her own show on Food Network and wound up being yet another risotto cautionary tale.

After seeing one talented chef after another struggle with the dish, a regular ol’ home cook like myself couldn’t help feeling intimated. I mean if someone who went to culinary school struggles, what business do I have even attempting a similar challenge? But one day, I couldn’t resist giving it my best shot. And with a little patience, and a whole lot of stirring, it was a big hit.

I think risotto doesn’t work for reality shows because it’s a little on the needy side. You babysit this rice for a good 25 minutes, which isn’t terrible unless you’ve got a clock ticking in the background and a bunch of other tasks to execute before time runs out. Plus, more often than not, cooking competitions require dishes in much larger quantities. I couldn’t even imagine how much warm chicken stock you’d need for risotto for 25.

But risotto for, say, 8? It’s really not that bad. And if you have the emotional fortitude to see it through, it’s a luxurious dish that would cost like $15 if you ordered it in a restaurant.

If you’ve never sampled risotto, it kicks regular rice’s booty. And because it’s so rich (and without even a trace of heavy cream, mind you), you only need a few spoonfuls, and it’s absolute bliss with chicken, fish, you name it. I made the pot of risotto pictured above with roasted asparagus tips and because I couldn’t resist, a little lemon zest to underscore that whole Spring feel about the dish. Also because I knew it would make Will happy, I garnished the top with applewood smoked bacon. Mmmm.

Now that I’ve been going on and on and on about this rice, you’ll probably want to whip some up too. Here’s my favorite base recipe. For the wine, I really like “Santorini,” a fairly inexpensive Greek wine that I’d drink with dinner. And of course, you can customize your risotto with any of your favorite vegetables, mushrooms, shrimp, whatever, it’s that versatile.