I don’t care about a meal’s nutritional value really, except whether or not something is edible. Despite trying to remember exactly what’s in the food triangle and worrying that i eat too much bread and sometimes not being about to tell the difference between starch and grain…ANYWAY. Risotto is arborio rice. Which is starch. And awesome! And there’s some other healthy ingredients in there. And non-healthy ones! Let’s go!
Now, people worry about making risotto because you have to watch it carefully, but it’s not that big of a frigging deal. And actually it’s beautiful watching it, because your eyeballs can actually see the rice changing in the hot stock, it’s like seeing an awesome science experiment right in your kitchen. So. It’s time consuming, but well worth it at the end, and, I would argue, during. I like to disconnect and focus on the warmth and creativity in the kitchen. It’s far more nourishing than anything you could eat in one meal, the process.
2 cups arborio rice
8 cups chicken or veggie or beef stock (or gatorade or vodka just NOT water)
1-2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms (or chanterelles, or creminis, or morels) *Porcinis are the most flavorful for your buck, though, I think)
1 tablespoon butter
1 small yellow onion OR 2 small shallots, chopped very finely
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1 fat knob of parmesan cheese
salt and cracked black pepper
Pinch dried sage
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Warm up the the stock in a large pot and throw in all the dried mushrooms. Leave it warming on low with a bit of salt while you get on with it. Then, in a large saute pan, heat up the olive oil and butter over medium low. Toss in the fluffily chopped onions and a pinch of salt, and spoon them around for about ten minutes, until they are soft and translucent. You want the flavor of onion, but not the mouth-feel of them, so part of this process is to make them disappear, essentially. After the onions have been partying in their buttery oil bath for a couple minutes, add the bay leaf and the pinch of sage. Dried herbs are super flavory though, so I mean a tiny quick pinch, like when you used to pinch your kid sister before your mom noticed.
When the onions are soft and buttery and translucent, stir in the rice until you can see all the grains are evenly coated. Now it’s hot stock time! (Which is fun to yell out). Remember, the mushrooms are sousing about in the stock, so use a ladle at first and dip into the stock without adding the mushrooms just yet. If some sneak in there, it’s no big whoop, but try to avoid it.
Add one ladleful at a time, and let the rice fully absorb each one before continuing. This part of the process allows the rice to release it’s wonderful healing starchiness, making the dish so rich and fantastic. It’s the magical, sciencey part. You can tell when it’s absorbing when the actual liquid is gone and the rice becomes sticky, when you give the pan a stir with your wooden spoon and (there’s no other way to say this, so I’m sorry), there’s a kind of snail trail of starchy sticky ooze in the pan as your spoon sweeps around. It’s sounds horrifying, but it’s the opposite. Bear with me.
When you’ve added about half the stock, add the juice of half a lemon to the pan. Some people use sherry or wine or even vinegar, but I like the fresh, astringent zing of lemon to cut the richness of such a meal. Next, pop your peas into the stock pot with the mushrooms. Continue ladling until the rice is done, really. Sometimes you use all the stock, sometimes there’s a bit left over. I’m assuming it all has to do with the humidity in the air, the brand of rice, whether you’re cooking below or above sea level… SCIENCE!.
Dig into your pan of rice and fish out the bay leaf. Add salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Using a strainer or a slotted spoon, separate the mushrooms and peas from the stock and roughly chop the mushrooms, and add both to the risotto. Grab the fat knob of parmesan and shred it finely over the pan, mixing the cheese into the dish as evenly as possible. A little goes a long way, as the rice is already very flavorful and parmesan is a strong cheese, so practice self control. But just for a second! It’s almost time to eat.
Serve in warm bowl or coffee mugs, spritz with more lemon, season with a little more cracked pepper, and shave a smidgen more parmesan on top (for presentation, obviously). Bonus points if you have a little fresh parsley, or if it’s raining, or if you have a covered porch or fireplace to sit around while you eat. Extra double bonus points if you bought wine to make the risotto with but then read the recipe and used lemon instead, so now you can drink all the wine. Either way, enjoy.