Fact: I’m a much better baker than I am chef.
I like exacts….things that are black and white without any smidge of gray. Scales and measuring cups, carefully written recipes, consistency and reliability. Most of all, I like knowing that if I mix together flour, water, salt and yeast, I will get bread. Of some form.
My mom on the other hand? Now she’s a chef. She can turn nothing into anything and loves creating recipes on the fly with whatever she has on hand. Whenever I’m home, I’ll sit perched on a bar-stool while she cooks, furiously scribbling down the ingredients and proportions that I see.
“Mom, exactly how much cream should I be using?” I’ll ask.
“Oh, you know…just a drizzle!” She’ll respond with a laugh. “There’s no recipe, really; it’s just a little of this and a little of that!”
“Mom, can you tell the exact amount of chicken stock in that soup?”
“Just till it looks right, Jen! Maybe a quart or so?”
I’m not really an anal person, per-say. Really!
That all being said though, what I can cook is a mighty fine bowl of risotto.
It’s probably the best thing I make, actually— not to toot my own horn too much, though, since I can’t cook regular ol’ rice for squat.
So, grab a glass of wine, pull up a bar-stool and listen up. I promise that by the end of this post you, too, can make delicious creamy risotto that will rival any restaurant version.
Fact: mushroom risotto is one of my favorite things….ever. It’s the recipe I whip out when I need to impress, and I pretty owe the status of my current relationship to it.
Well, that and a large pepperoni pizza.
But that’s another post for another time!
People go crazy for this stuff (once I made it for a crowd of 24 with success) and, for some reason, always think it’s really hard and time consuming to make. But guess what? It’s totally not. In fact, it’s actually incredibly easy to make.
Start by swirling one tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot.
Put the pot on the stove and bring the heat up to medium.
Now, mince a shallot (I love shallots because they don’t have that real strong onion-y taste!):
When the olive oil is hot, add the shallot.
Cook for about four minutes, until soft and translucent. Once that’s done, add the rice. To serve four, you’d add a cup but since I’m just making this for myself today I only used a fourth of a cup. (Note that the rest of this recipe will be suited to serve four, not one)
Stir the rice and make sure that each kernel is covered in olive oil. Cook for about three minutes, stirring often.
And then we start to add the liquid. If I were cool, I would have added a fourth of a cup of white wine here. But….I’m not cool and don’t have any white wine at the moment so I just used chicken stock.
You could also use chicken broth or vegetable broth. I just love the rich taste of the stock versus broth. Oh, and don’t use water!!!
Water is for drinking, wine and stock are for cooking. (that’s what she said?)
With your heat on medium, add one fourth cup of stock. Then stir, stir, stir.
Keep stirring. Stir until you a) can’t feel your arm anymore or b) see that the rice has absorbed all the liquid.
And then another fourth cup. Keep this stirring process going until all the stock has been added and the rice is cooked (taste-test!).
And, since we’re making mushroom risotto today, you’ll want to stir in some cooked mushrooms…along with freshly grated Parmesan cheese:
The end result should be a little bit thicker than rice pudding. You want to be able to scoop it onto a plate and have it hold it’s shape…no one likes runny risotto!
Stirring for so long may seem tedious, but to me, it’s almost like yoga in the kitchen. It forces you to concentrate on one task, and one task alone. It’s a great way to clear your mind, and the end result is very rewarding…I promise!
Sometimes I’ll just have a bowl of this by itself for dinner. It’s the perfect comfort food. Last night, though, I had it alongside a baked chicken breast and some green beans and it was equally fabulous.
serves 4 as a side-dish
1 cup arborio rice
4-4 1/2 cups chicken stock, broth or vegetable stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
16 oz sliced mushrooms
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Mince the shallot and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot under medium heat. Once hot, add the shallot and saute for about four minutes, or until tender and translucent.
Add the rice and stir well to coat. Cook for three minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the white wine and cook until all is absorbed, stirring constantly.
Then, add the stock, a quarter cup at a time (a ladle does this job nicely), stirring continuously over medium heat. Add more stock once the previous amount has been completely absorbed by the rice. Continue this patter until you’ve used all of the stock, and the rice has cooked through.
In a separate pan, saute the mushrooms for about eight minutes until tender. Once tender, add them to the risotto along with the cheese. Stir well and serve.