1000 Nights of Risotto

So far it’s just one night,  but risotto is so versatile you could have it 1000 nights and never have the same thing twice.  Here’s the thing – you can put anything you want in it.   Risotto is a terrific way to use the odds and ends left in the vegetable drawer.  It’s a pretty simple dish overall.  You need an oil; an aromatic (like onions and/or garlic); arborio rice; and acid (usually wine);  stock (any kind); and some extra stuff.

So it has several things going for it.  Most of the stuff you need you have in the house all the time anyway.  If you just get in the habit of keeping arborio rice in your pantry you’re all set.  Also, it’s kind of mindless to make.  You chop up all the stuff.  Add the ingredients in the right order.  And stir, stir, stir.  But’s it’s a slow stirring process and the wine is already open so enjoy!  If you have a kitchen that people hang out in it’s perfect to make for company.  You can sip and stir and chat. Plan for the whole process, from chopping to stirring to serving to take 45 minutes to an hour. It’s the slow addition of liquid and the slow stirring that pulls the creamy starch out of the rice and makes it so yummy!

Use chicken, beef, shrimp or vegetable stock.  Use onions, shallots, leeks, garlic, etc.  Then hit the fridge and see what’s in there.  I’ve made risotto with shrimp and corn; sausage and mozzarella; prosciutto and peas; spinach and smoked gouda.  Almost whatever you have a little leftover of will do.  Just be sure that you pick something that will maintain its shape and has a firm enough texture to separate itself from the risotto.   Serve it as a main dish or a side.  There are lots of recipes out there to give you some guidance.  In fact, this month’s Cooking Light has a whole section on Spring risottos.  That was my inspiration though I didn’t end up using any of the recipes.

Tonight I made mushroom risotto.  I bought some shiitakes and baby bellas a couple of days ago on sale so I needed to use them.  I had a couple of good sized shallots left from a couple of weeks ago.  I always have olive oil, stock and wine or sherry in the house.  Fresh parmesan is also a staple here.  One confession – I used canned stock tonight.  I know, the horror!  To be perfectly honest I never make my own beef stock.  It’s a lot harder than making chicken, vegetable or shrimp stock and it takes a lot longer.  I buy the no fat, reduced sodium kind.  Anyway, that transgression aside it was very, very good. Most recipes direct you to cook the rice just so that it has a little bite left to it. Very al dente in my opinion. I prefer mine just a touch softer so I cook it a little longer. My apologies to any purists out there. Be sure to let me know if you’re ever coming to dinner here and I’ll take yours off early.

Good? Indeed
Easy? Yep.
Good for company? Definitely.
Special shopping? Nope, that kind of misses the point!

Here’s what I did tonight:

4 C beef stock, heated in a sauce pan
2 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 C shallots, chopped
1/3 C sherry
1 C arborio rice
2-3 C sliced mushroom caps, shiitake, bella, oyster, porcini, whatever

Heat the stock in a sauce pan, keep warm
Heat the oil/butter in a chef’s pan or small stock pot
Add the shallots (or onions and garlic) and saute 1-2 minutes, until soft
Add arborio rice, stir to coat the grains
Add sherry (or wine), stir until liquid is almost all absorbed
Add stock 1/2 C at a time
Stir after each addition until liquid is almost all absorbed
When risotto is cooked add mushrooms (or whatever you’re adding)
Cook an additional 1-3 minutes to heat through
Serve with freshly grated parmesan.

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