So I have a thing for risotto.
Besides it being a blanket of yummy goodness during colder months, it’s a great way to learn the art of cooking. It’s such a great teacher in fact, that it is often the first dish I whip up if someone asks me to teach them how to cook. I always throw in a cheesy platitude as I do it about how risotto is like sex (or life, mom! Life!).
Well, here’s the thing about risotto. The base recipe is always the same, the ingredients, the time, the stirring. Yet you can do it exactly the way the cookbook says and still somehow end up with either small rocks or a soupy, sticky mess!
The key, my friends? You gotta listen your partner-er..your food.
An instruction manual isn’t going to do it. Technique alone isn’t going to do it. You could have done it the same way a million times to success and have it fail at one million-and-one. You have to treat every pot of risotto like it’s the first one you’ve made, focus, listen and pay attention. And guess what? You’ll enjoy yourself every time, I promise.
MY FAVORITE MUSHROOM RISOTTO (serves 1):
*If you haven’t guessed by now, each recipe for this site is modified to match the consistency of a larger dish. So it may include or omit things you would normally see in a classic recipe for taste.
1/3 cup Arborio, medium or short-grain rice
4 cups water, room tempurature
1-2 cup beef bullion cube (or 2-1 cup)
2 tsp olive oil
1 1/4 tbsp salted butter
1 shallot, chopped
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 cup dry white wine or Marsala
1 tbsp dried porcini mushrooms (or dried mushroom of choice)
1/2 cup frozen mushroom mix (I like Whole Food’s organic line)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
1 tbsp Crème Fraîche (optional)
Salt/pepper to taste
Set 3 cups in a small saucepan to boil and add bullion, setting aside remaining water for later. Boil until cube has softened, stir to dissolve, and remove from heat. Add dried mushrooms, cover, and allow to steep for ten minutes. Remove mushrooms and set aside, strain broth and return to saucepan. Bring mushroom broth back to a boil, then turn off heat.
While the mushrooms are steeping, chop your shallots. Add chopped mushrooms from the broth. Set a medium-sized heavy bottom pan to medium heat (because of the small amounts, I prefer to use a non-stick for the rice). Add olive oil and garlic and give it a swirl (you will not have a lot of time, so make sure everything is on hand!), then add mushroom-shallot mixture and saute until shallots become translucent, around three minutes. Add 1 tbsp of the butter and your rice, and keeping a consistent stir, toast for another three minutes. Then the fun begins!
Keeping a consistent stirring motion, add the 1/4 cup white wine to deglaze. As soon as the wine boils down and you’ve stirred up all the yummy brown bits, add your mushroom stock 1/3 cup (or the spoon you’re using) at a time. Since this is a small dish in a medium pan you may find the water evaporating too soon, so use the room-temperature water in small splashes to slow it down. Keep adding broth in 1/3-cup increments after the water boils down. Do not allow the rice to get completely dry or stick to the pot.
After 12 minutes, add frozen mushrooms; continue stirring and adding stock for another 7 minutes. At the last minute of cooking, stir in parmesan, remaining butter, a shake of pepper, one splash of broth and Crème Fraîche. Cover and allow to steam for 5 minutes. Spoon into bowl and garnish with parmesan.