Recent Posts

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wild Mushroom & Pea Risotto, from scratch

Risotto is one of my favorite things to cook. It is definitely a labor of love, but the finished product is worth it. A friend of mine recently expressed her distaste with a risotto she made from a mix, and I promised to post a how-to for diy risotto (I'm finally getting around to it).

My favorite risotto recipe is from Giada de Laurentiis' cookbook, Everyday Italian. I am a huge fan of Giada, because she makes Italian cooking more accessible to normal people, like me. I used to watch her show religiously, but have since gotten away from it now that I'm not in college anymore. I still covet her cookbooks and pore through her recipes whenever I'm looking for something to try out. Some of my most successful attempts at cooking have been from her recipes, whether copied exactly, or adding my own twist. In a nutshell, I love her. I think she's a
kitchen goddess.

Before I delve into my world of cooking madness, I must give this disclaimer:

this is my small, ugly, 1950's style apartment kitchen. this is why i don't do a lot of cooking (although, i do love my dish towels).

Risotto takes some time and patience in order for it to turn out alright. You should expect to spend at least an hour making it, and this is time standing over a stove, not leaving it and watching American Idol while it cooks.

I am not a professional chef. My husband is, but he in no way condones my presence in the kitchen. In fact, he often laughs at my techniques and lack of knowledge. Whatevs.

I am not a picky eater. I will eat almost anything as long as it's not too spicy, and I am slightly lactose intolerant, so I try to limit my dairy intake (even though I don't really succeed). I don't have a problem with the textures of food, as in, I love mushrooms, both cooked and raw, even though they're mushy and are technically a fungus. I have a strange palette, and enjoyed eating raw oysters on the half shell as early as age 12. That being said, what I claim in this post to be delicious might not be your proverbial cup of tea.

The easiest way to explain the techniques necessary for making risotto, is to show it through pictures… So, here they are:

Step 1:

A glass of wine is a necessary starting point for almost every good italian dish. Especially risotto.


- 3/4 c Arborio Rice (I recommend Pastene brand, because it's usually available... check the specialty Italian section of your grocery store)

- Chicken Broth (I used fat free and couldn't taste any difference)

- 3/4 c chopped onion

- 2 cloves garlic

- 1 pkg dried exotic mushrooms (I used oyster because they were available, Giada used porcini)

- 1 carton white mushrooms

- 1/3 c white wine (use any white wine that you would enjoy drinking -- see step 1)

- olive oil (or butter)

- frozen peas (I didn't measure them -- add to taste)

- water (only if you run out of chicken broth)

- Parmesan cheese

The first step is reconstituting the dried mushrooms. Simmer your mushrooms in the chicken broth according to the package instructions (mine said 20 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and save the chicken broth. Your chicken broth will have reduced, so add some water to bring it up to the original level, and keep it over a low heat setting.

Chop 3/4c onion. I always use sweet onions, because that's my personal preference, but you could use any other type.

In a sauce pan, heat up a dollop of olive oil. I don't usually measure it, but I assume that it's approximately 2 tbsp.

Cook the onions in the olive oil on a medium heat setting until translucent, but not browned (this will take approx. 8 minutes).

this is what they will look like.

While your onions are cooking, chop up your mushrooms and garlic. I typically use a lot of garlic and mushrooms, because I love both, and mushrooms reduce significantly when cooked.

Tip: smash the garlic with the flat part of your knife to release the flavors and help peel the skin.

Add your garlic and mushrooms together and saute for approx. 10 minutes, until mushrooms reduce in size.

When the mushrooms are cooked, make a well and add a little more olive oil. Add the Arborio rice to this well, and mix thoroughly, making sure to coat the rice with olive oil.

If this is your first time making risotto, be sure to look closely at the rice. You will see that the center of the rice is bright white and opaque. This will change when it's fully cooked, and it will be important to monitor the color and texture of the rice throughout the cooking process.

Add 1/2 c wine, and stir until the wine has been absorbed into the rice. This is the key point to making risotto: you add liquid in small amounts and slowly let it cook down before you add more liquid. The slower you cook your rice, the better it will be.

When your wine has been absorbed, use a ladle to add your broth. You should add enough liquid so that you can easily stir the rice mixture, but not so much that the level of liquid is over the top of the rice. Your liquid level should be about 1/2 that of your rice. Let the liquid slowly absorb into the rice, and stir frequently (that's important, too) before adding more liquid.

The whole point of tediously adding liquid, letting absorb into your rice, and stirring frequently is to allow the starch in the rice to release slowly, which creates the creamy texture that risotto is known for. There isn't actually any dairy in it to make it creamy (except the cheese, of course) -- it's all the magic of the rice.

You risotto will become increasingly difficult to stir, but it's important to continue stirring to be sure that all of the rice is making contact with the liquid (and that it's not sticking to the bottom of the pan, or else you'd have pseudo-paella). This is what your risotto will look like when it's almost finished (you can see that the edges of the rice aren't transparent anymore):

And this is what it will look like when it's completely finished (see the difference in the texture?):

Turn off the heat and add your peas and cheese and stir. The heat from the pan and rice will melt the peas, so you don't have to precook them.

And this is what it looks like when it's all finished and plated. My goal for the end product is to have a consistency of glue, so the rice is rather sticky and a little "mushy." I think that more traditional risottos have a bit more liquid, but it's just the difference of cooking off liquid in the end or not. It's all personal preference.

This recipe makes a lot of risotto (I cut Giada's recipe in half), and with the amounts I used, you could easily serve three or four people (as a side dish).

And that's it!

Between reconstituting the mushrooms and chopping all the veggies, it took me approx. 2 hours from start to finish. I used a really low heat setting, so it took me a lot longer than it probably should have.

You can substitute any ingredients you want, but if you use a greasy meat, you should precook it and drain off any grease that it produces. Prosciutto would be a delicious addition to the mushrooms and peas (too bad I didn't think of that at the grocery store).

It's not so bad once you get the hang of it, and it's easier with practice. It may seem intimidating at first, but just try it, and don't try to adhere to measuring ingredients or cook times exactly. I always feel that with cooking, it's much better to add your own flair (not like baking).

* Note: Please excuse the typographical errors in the early release of this post (I think I fixed them all). I was on my second glass of wine when I wrote this at 11pm last night, and to be quite frank, I'm a cheap date when it comes to wine. I have finally come to know the importence of proof-reading.

blog comments powered by Disqus