March 25, 2006


One of the things that I like best about having a blog based about food is the sense of needing to keep experimenting and trying new things in order to keep it interesting. I’ve been branching out bit lately from my standard grilled beast and salad. This past week was kind of a wash as far as cooking went, but Friday night entertainment was the kitchen, and since I had picked up some arborio and a few tips: risotto time. We’ve been a mini-Italian kick lately with a new cookbook or three, and they all have long and lovely passages singing the praises of risotto in all its forms. I’d always passed on it, considering it the rough equivalent of rice-a-roni, but I was wrong. Take the best parts of pasta, rice, creamy Alfredo and your favorite ingredients (shrimp/truffles/chicken/veggies/whatever) and there you have it. It’s a little more involved than cooking normal rice or pasta and sauce; you have to pay attention and follow a procedure if not an actual recipe. It turns into such creamy goodness when you finish you’ll be mad at your parents for not stuffing you full of it while you were still young and under their care. I think of all the comfort meals I wasted on plain pasta or boxed mac-n-cheese, and I am sad for what could have been.

You need Italian rice, arborio, or you are making pilaf. It may be good with normal long-grain rice, but it will not be risotto. If I could remember whom to attribute that to, I would, but I read it somewhere and can’t find the author.

2 tbs olive oil
1 glass white wine
2 minced garlic cloves
1 small minced onion
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3 tbs butter, softened
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan
1 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
3 cups of broth (chicken, vegetable, or mushroom)

Set the broth on the stove to warm, You’ll use it approximately a cup at a time, but there’s no need to divvy it up. Heat the oil to medium and saute the garlic and onion until it’s translucent, about five minutes. Add the arborio and stir often to toast and coat evenly with the butter (STIR). Pour in half of the wine, drink the other half, and continue stirring until the wine you put in the pan is absorbed. Add about a cup of the hot broth, again stirring while the broth is absorbed (STIR). Start sauteing the mushrooms in a hot pan with a bit of butter, seasoning well with salt and pepper, until they are browned. Keep on adding broth and stirring the risotto all the while until all of the liquid is gone (STIR) and the rice is tender (not mushy). It should take about 15 minutes (STIR), but a few more or less won’t ruin things. Turn off the heat and stir in the mushrooms, butter, parsley and grated cheese. Parmesan or whatever similar you have is fine – fontina is supposed to work wonders. Serve immediately with crusty bread, a salad dressed with oil & vinegar, and whatever wine you are currently enjoying.

One of the best thing about risotto is the adaptability – it goes well with anything. Add a little broccoli, carrots, celery, fennel, good olives, chopped (cooked) chicken or beef or shrimp. Root veggies should be added and cooked with the onions and garlic – the other type of ingredients probably should be added near the end, as with the mushrooms above. Play around with the cheese you add, or the different wines and broth. Two things remain constant – STIR; this isn’t the San Francisco Treat and you don’t want to brown the rice. Like alfredo, eat it hot and proper from the pan as the leftovers aren’t easy to love.

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