Fancy Rice

mushroom risotto

Risotto is this odd meal, in that it is a supremely simple thing to make but the average home cook seems to feels utterly daunted by it. I’m uncertain if this is because of all the stirring, the time it takes to make or because it seems like it must be easy to mess up. Whatever the reason you feel intimidated by risotto, I promise you it is easy.

Think of risotto as “fancy rice” because that’s essentially what it is. It’s hard to screw up rice. This, I promise, is no different. And if you are one of those rare cooks who can screw up rice, congrats and I promise, this is even easier, it’s nearly foolproof.

Yet, it remains elusively on fancy menus. I have tried risotto in a couple of french restaurants, and they were okay. I highly suggest it at home, over a $20 bowl, because you’ll probably give it more attention then the sous chef did.

Risotto, is above all else, a meal of patience and preparation, and if you have that it is going to work for you.

The recipe that follows is for mushroom risotto, however, check the notes at the end for options to make it different ways – including how to makes this vegan friendly. This is, however, how I make it most often, and is getting posted because I promised my lovely friend Mink I’d write it up for her.

A note on mushrooms: fresh ones can have hidden mold, and both fresh and dried are at high risk of being sprayed with sulfur to preserve them (even organic, local ones) so make sure you research what you’re using. I only use organic sulfite-free dried mushrooms, just to be safe.

Mushroom Risotto
Serves 4 as a side (approximately 330 calories/serving according to myfitnesspal)
I usually eat 2 servings as a whole meal.

~1 oz of dried mushrooms, reconstituted
1-1 1/2 cups mushroom stock from reconstituted mushrooms
3 cups of aborio rice
2-2.5 chicken/vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons of butter
A block of Pecorino Romano to shred at end
Salt & pepper to taste

Hardware needed: a sauce pan, small pot, ladle, spoon of choice, cheese grater/microplane

I usually reconstitute mushrooms all day or overnight, I stick them in a container to soak, then remove mushrooms as needed. (Here I used the left over mushrooms from the mushroom mac & cheese I made last week.) To use, strain out mushrooms from mushroom stock, save stock, take out mushrooms to dice.

I keep frozen stock in the freezer, so tossed the frozen block of chicken stock in the small pot over medium-low heat and added the mushroom stock. I ended up with about 4 cups of stock total (and saved what was left to cook other stuff in this week). Allow this to heat through (I never bring to a boil). Ideally you’ll want to heat stock on the burner closest to where your risotto pan will be.

While that heats, dice mushrooms and warm sauce pan. I use a thick bottomed anodized steel pan or my cast iron coated steel pan. Both at thick bottomed and required preheating. Your stock should be getting warm by now.

Once you’ve finished your mushroom dicing and the pan is warm, add butter to the pan and allow to melt. I usually toss in a sprinkle of salt here too. Then add all of your rice. You want to heat it until it become mostly clear (as pictured). Then add diced mushrooms (you want these to cook along with the rice) and stir everything about.

(This is where I scoot my walker with a seat up to the stove. Use a chair if you like or you have bad knees/hips/ankles. You’ll be here for a while.)

Here comes the patience part: using the ladle, spoon in the first dose of stock and stir so the stock gets mixed in. Repeat. For a while.

Most chefs will tell you that you’re to stir continuously. To which I say, ha! They’re not cooking with a bad shoulder, neuropathy and a cat who’s sticking her nose in everything. You do need to stir a lot, regularly, so things don’t stick to each other or the pan. Adding stock is pulling starches out of the rice, so things are gonna get sticky, but you don’t have to stir constantly, just often but you can take wrist breaks and there’s no need to be crazy vigorous.

Add one ladle of stock at a time, allowing each to soak into the rice (mostly) before adding another. As you do this the rice will plump up and release it’s precious starch into the stock, creating a creamy texture with the stock. Keep adding until the rice is as cooked as you would like it to be. I like mine just chewy. (This can take more stock then expected, which is why I always heat more then I think I’ll need because it makes for frustration when you’re trying to thaw & heat stock 3/4 of the through cooking dinner.)

Once it’s absorbed all the stock it’s going to, remove from the heat. Take your cheese and grate it generously over the top (I usually use about 5-6 tablespoons of fresh grated cheese). Stir it in to make the risotto nice and creamy. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Serve or eat straight out of the pan like I tend to do when making it for myself.

Notes:

  • If you want to make this vegan friendly, use oil instead of butter, vegetable stock instead of chicken and skip the cheese.
  • I used goat butter (which is why it’s so white) but feel free to use your butter of choice.
  • This is a naturally gluten free dish. Don’t get all crazy and add breadcrumbs, and you’ll be safe.
  • I use the remaining stock within a few days, usually to steam veggies or make rice with. Mushroom/vegetable/chicken stock is a great way to add nutrients to rice made in the rice cooker or steamed veggies.
  • You can use just vegetable/chicken stock and make risotto lots of other ways: with peas, chicken, beef, carrots, whathaveyou. Just remember to dice whatever you add small. You want it to blend well with the texture. I used to add cooked peas at the end, same with cooked chicken. Whatever you would have with rice, you can basically have in risotto.
  • Parmesan is usually used as the cheese for risotto, so feel free to use that if you have it on hand. I used Pecorino because it’s the hard sheep cheese that was in stock at Earth Fare. Ideally, grate immediately. If you must, you can use pre-grated. I just don’t want to hear how it sucks if you used that canned stuff.
  • Oh, and if you want risotto but are all “shoot! all I have is these 8 other kinds of rice,” like I sometimes am, if you have sushi rice on hand – you can use that instead. Remember that on your next trip to the asian grocery – it might be cheaper.

Questions? Anything I can make clearer? How do you like your risotto? And are you going to brave risotto now that you see how easy it is?

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My friend J asked about the social effects of eating with allergies, so I wrote a post about my experience.

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