I feel like I’ve been helping out in the kitchen ever since I can remember, watching my Dad cook* and helping chop or stir something when I could. Of course, this evolved into more elaborate tasks in the kitchen and helping to prepare whole meals…
(* Or as my dad will claim helping him in the kitchen consisted of simply boiling a pot of water, microwaving something or even just ordering take out. Pish posh father! )
But (as I’d say is true of many) no one properly taught me to cook – I rather learned from watching, picking up little lessons here and there, and of course, learning from my mistakes. And it’s paid off, no doubt as I’m a pretty damn good cook.
But anyway, the first (and only) dish that I was ever properly taught to cook was risotto. That first lesson is quite hazy (as it was before I even went to college), but it was a dish I really wanted to master and so I watched as it was cooked, asked questions, and made mental notes.
I have committed its “recipe” and technique to memory and made it thousands of times since. And it’s one of the only dishes I make without wanting or needing to consult a recipe (and I love to use recipes). I am confident in my risotto making abilities… I got this guys!
It is the only dish I could truly make in my sleep. (So at least if I sleep walk and cook you a batch of risotto, while a dangerous act, at least you can guarantee it will be good!).
I mean, if the Queen were coming for dinner, I’d make a risotto for her Majesty… Yes, you may be asking yourself why the Queen of England would be coming over for dinner in Bed Stuy… But it could happen (and she would stay for breakfast too)! And at least I already have my menu set. (This is consequently what I’d also serve for any Head of State if you were wondering).
And while it holds a special place in my heart as one of the first dishes I truly mastered, it’s also my ultimate comfort food. During many visits home from college it was my welcome home dinner (served with chicken picatta and roasted asparagus). And even now, if I’m feeling down, there’s nothing better than a big bowl of creamy risotto.
And that’s what I love about risotto – you could serve it to the Queen, but also eat it in sweats on the couch while watching Pretty Little Liars. It can be both simple and elegant.
You can use the finest quality, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, but ol’ Kraft parm out of that green can works great too. You can use high quality Carnaroli rice (which I just learned about!) or the tried and true Arborio rice for your risotto! And you can use finish it off with truffle oil if you’re feeling really luxurious. The world is your oyster when it comes to risotto! I’ve never had a bad risotto.
And while I’ve made and sampled many risottos, my favorite will always be with sautéed mushrooms. It’s a classic.
The secret to a risotto is all about slowly adding your liquid. Once you’ve sauteed your onions and garlic, and toasted your rice, you slowly add a ladle or cup at a time of chicken stock. You keep stirring, gently letting the rice absorb that liquid and then add another ladle full and repeat the process. It’s kind of a time intensive process, but it’s well worth the wait. Once your rice is done and nice and creamy, you finish with butter and cheese off the heat. SO DELICIOUS! I stir in sauteed mushrooms et voila!
Mushroom risotto, ta-da!
Now I should note that while I’m tooting my own risotto horn and claiming I make a perfect risotto, I’m not sure how mine would stand up to the masters… risotto is supposed to have a runny consistency, but I frankly like my risotto creamier and more dense (if that makes sense). The MasterChef judges may not approve of my risotto but by golly it makes me happy so, so be it!
Oh risotto, my one true culinary love….I wish I knew how to quit you!
(The alternate title to this post should be: Risotto Food Porn).
- 8 cups chicken broth, low sodium
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 onion, diced, divided
- 2 garlic cloves, minced, divided
- 1 pound fresh portobello and crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon truffle oil
- 1 -ounce dried porcini mushrooms, wiped of grit
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ½ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
- Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ½ onion and 1 clove garlic, cook, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, herbs and butter. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle in truffle oil then add the dried porcini mushrooms which were reconstituted in1 cup of warm chicken broth. Season again with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Saute 1 minute then remove from heat and set aside.
- Coat a saucepan with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Saute the remaining ½ onion and garlic clove. Add the rice and stir quickly until it is well-coated and opaque, 1 minute. This step cooks the starchy coating and prevents the grains from sticking. Stir in wine and cook until it is nearly all evaporated.
- Now, with a ladle, add 1 cup of the warm broth and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time. Continue to cook and stir, allowing the rice to absorb each addition of broth before adding more. The risotto should be slightly firm and creamy, not mushy. Transfer the mushrooms to the rice mixture. Stir in Parmesan cheese, cook briefly until melted.