I’ll admit, I was a little intimidated by this one.  I’d never made risotto before, and writing this cookbook gave me the perfect excuse to try and see if I could do this classic Italian dish justice.  Anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Hell’s Kitchen (or is a fan of cooking shows, in general) probably knows how hard it is, even for a skilled cook, to get it just right.  But simply put, risotto is rice cooked slowly with wine and broth, stirred diligently to release the rice starches, resulting in a creamy, sauce-like texture.  The hardest part was being patient enough to keep stirring, stirring, stirring.  The end product is hearty, rich, and so satisfying, it could be a meal all on its own.  If divided into four large portions, they each have about 475 calories.

You’ll make the dish in two parts: the mushroom sauté, and then the risotto portion.  You can use the same pan, but you want to get a nice cook on the mushrooms before adding them to the rice later.  I’ve divided the ingredients for both parts.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the mushroom sauté:

  • 10 oz. button, cremini (baby portabellas), or oyster mushrooms, chopped.  Really any mix of your favorites will do.
  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 t.)
  • ¼ t. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 T. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 T. fresh parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the risotto:

  • 1 white onion, finely diced (about 1 c.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 t.)
  • 1 c. Arborio rice
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2/3 c. dry white wine
  • 5-6 c. chicken or beef stock
  • 1/3 c. fresh or frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

First, put the broth in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  You’ll be adding it gradually to the rice later and you want it to be hot.  Second, pour a couple cups of hot water over the dried mushrooms and allow them to steep for at least 10 minutes.  Strain them from the water and roughly chop them.  Pour the majority of the mushroom broth into the pot with the chicken/beef broth.  Leave the last ¼ cup or so as it’s likely to carry any grit that came off the mushrooms.

In a hot skillet, add the olive oil and, once the oil is hot, the garlic, mushrooms, herbs, and salt and pepper.  Sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms are dark brown and tender.  Pour the mushrooms into a bowl and set aside for later.

Put the skillet back on the heat and add the olive oil, onion, and garlic.  Sweat the onions for about 10 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent.  Next, add in the rice and stir to coat it with the oil.  Turn the heat up a little to medium and let the rice toast for a minute or two.  Then pour in the wine and a ladle full of the broth.

Stirring constantly over medium-low heat, cook until the liquid is nearly absorbed and add another ½ cup of broth.  Keep stirring and cooking slowly, adding more broth ½ cup at a time, when it has almost absorbed, until the rice is tender.  This took about 30 minutes for me.

When the rice is tender, stir in the peas and cook for one more minute.  Turn off the heat, add one last ½ cup of broth, the butter, and Parmesan cheese.  Cover the pan and let sit for about 5 minutes.  The risotto should be thick and creamy, but still a fairly loose consistency; it should not hold its shape when pulled to one side.

Top with a little more Parmesan (or a lot… who are we kidding?), serve piping hot, sit back and enjoy the beautiful thing you just created.  Gordon Ramsay would be proud.

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