On today’s trip to the store I really needed inspiration. It was one of those days where you look out of the window at 11 am thinking it couldn’t possibly be past 8 am yet judging by the light. This resulted in an almost irresistible pull towards the comfyness of my bed and in a complete lack of ideas for dinner (other than: It has to be warm. And comforting. Could it even cook itsself?) and a seriously unmotivated zombie-shuffle to the store.
As if something was calling me I made a beeline for the fresh produce stand where I found a mix of fresh mushrooms for a reasonable price. Those in hand I overheard two older ladies chatting about cooking mishaps which immediately made think of rice. Rice and I don’t have a pretty history, but for some reason I never had problems with it when making risottos. Voila, dinner plans formed!
Tyrian chefs suggest combining…
And here’s my version
for 4 Servings you’ll need
3 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Brown Butter
1 large Clove of Garlic, finely chopped
2 Shallots, finely chopped
½ Lemon, Juice
Black Pepper and Sea Salt to taste
400-500ml Vegetable or Chicken stock (this varies depending on cooking temperature and type of rice)
100ml Mushroom Stock, 400-500ml Vegetable or Chicken Stock
200g Arborio Rice or any other Risotto Rice
100ml Madeira or Dry White Wine – a Pinot or Chenin Blanc goes well with mushrooms
75g freshly grated Parmesan
Fresh Flatleaf Parsley, finely chopped and some more Parmesan to finish
Opt: some Walnut or Olive Oil for a finishing flourish
1) Bring the stock to a gentle simmer in a small pot on medium heat. Keep it at about the same temperature your rice has throughout the process, hot but not boiling, to keep the temperature consistent.
2) Pick up another pot, large enough to hold the liquids and the rice, and melt 3 tbsp of butter on medium-low heat in it.
3) Add the garlic and shallot cubes to the butter. Cook them for about 6-8 mins while stirring occasionally to tenderize the onions without browning them. Keep the lid on during this time. If you’re a true risotto connoisseur you might take offense at the creamy texture of the risotto being disturbed by the shallot cubes. You could skip the garlic and shallots and finish the risotto off with a tbsp of shallot and garlic scented brown butter instead.
4) Turn up the heat to medium-high once the onions and garlic turn translucent and stir in the rice. Keep stirring, for 3-4 mins, until the rice starts turning translucent around the edges. This step allows the rice to absorb the liquids you’ll be adding more easily and adds a slightly nutty aroma of toasted grains.
5) Pour in the wine and let it reduce down a little – the pot should seem dry.
6) Turn down the heat to medium-low. Add the stock, a ladle at a time, stirring frequently. Let the rice absorb most of the stock in the pot before pouring in the next ladle.
7) Putting a time-stamp on this is a little harder than usual since it all depends on the type of rice you’ve used and the temperatures in your pots. In general, a risotto is ready once the grains and the liquids have amalgamated into a glossy, creamy blend – the liquid holding the grains together. The rice should be al dente, softened but with a little bite to it.
8) Once the rice is al dente and the risotto is just a little too runny, take the pot off the heat. The rice will absorb some more of it while it’s resting, but if you keep it on the heat, it might soften too much. If there’s a concerning amount of liquid left in the pot, keep it on just a little bit longer. The parmesan will soak up some of it and the residual heat of the rice will steam off a bit as well while you’re prepping the mushrooms.
9) Stir in the Parmesan, the brown butter and a drizzle of lemon juice.
10) Have a taste and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, olive oil and pepper. Be careful with impulses to add salt, the parmesan will work its magic during the next couple of minutes, taste again just before you plate up, just in case. Leave the risotto to stand for a few minutes while prepping the mushrooms.
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Non-Veggie Opt: 50g Panchetta or Smoked Bacon
300g Mixed Wild Mushrooms, cut into similar sized pieces
A scrape of Nutmeg
1 Pinch of dried Parsley
1) Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. At this point you could swap the oil for a couple of cubes of panchetta you could render in order to fry off the shrooms in the rendered fat. Take out the panchetta before adding the mushrooms and keep it for the topping
2) Add the mushrooms to the pan, season them with a pinch of salt, pepper, dried parsley and nutmeg. I tend to go heavy on the nutmeg and light on the pepper with mushrooms, but that’s really a qustion of preference.
3) Fry the shrooms over high heat for 3-4 mins until they are golden brown and any moisture they might have released has been cooked off. This one can go horribly wrong if you used frozen mushrooms of questionable quality, let’s say… because you thought ordinary button mushrooms might be too boring and there were no other fresh shrooms to be found? This once-and-never-to-be-repeated spur of snottiness ended in a second trip to the store for me to buy, yep, button mushrooms. Griddled and nicely seasoned they made a far better choice than the soggy, sandy and tasteless mess that came out of the freezing baggie.
4) Add half of the mushrooms to the risotto, keep the other half as topping. Or fold them all into the rice if you’re not in a fancy-looking-food-mood, taste-wise it doesn’t really make a difference.
5) Have another taste, plate up and serve with more parmesan or crème fraîche (if you like) and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.
A baby version of this lacking the fresh mushrooms, the wine (imagine a 16 year-old trying to explain to the lady at the store that the wine is meant to be cooked, not downed for recreational purposes) and herbs was actually the first risotto I ever made. After burning everything rice-related up until then I couldn’t understand the general consensus about risottos being advanced dishes, hard to cook and all that, after making one myself. I still don’t get the point of buying canned risotto or not ever trying to make one at all from a suggested difficulty-level point of view. Maybe the bad rep of risottos made me be more careful with it to begin with. I do, however, have to say: it is more attention-grabbing and time consuming than other seemingly small dishes. It’s definitely not a quick-fix dish. There’s something zen about the whole process though, the aromas wafting up to your nose while you’re listening to the soft noise of a wooden spoon stirring something creamy…
Speaking of risottos, while the tyrian risotto recipes use a “risotto base” to start the whole thing with, there are no such restrictions this side of the screen. Looking at the absolute basics, you need risotto rice, some liquid and maybe some sort of binding agent like cheese, butter or cream. When I made my pan-version of a jerk chicken I looked at the cooking liquids, marinade and roasted bits left in the pan and the jug of chicken stock next to it afterwards, feeling kind of sorry for having no use for those delicious leftovers… waaaaait a minute! I deglazed the pan with the stock and found myself merrily stirring a wonderful risotto with it the next evening. Topped off with a few griddled pineapple pieces… so not an italian classic, amazing nonetheless~
I’ve got a follow-up for the risotto prepared for next week, revolving around turning leftovers into something small but de~licious…