If you haven’t eaten risotto yet, you should definitely give it a try. Risotto is a great food to have in your arsenal for simple living because it’s 1) cheap 2) tastes richer than it is and 3) is extremely flexible as a dish. You can make lots of variations; today I picked mushroom risotto because that’s awesome, but you could very easily change it to seafood or squash or whatever else you have lying around.
The reason simple little risotto works so well as an accompanying dish is because of its richness and creaminess. Unlike the way we normally make rice, this method involves stirring constantly and adding the liquid gradually (rather than dumping and simmering). The result, or so I’ve heard, is that the natural starches of the rice are coaxed out in such a way to create a creamy, gooey broth around the chewy, delicious rice. Using liquids like broth and wine add a lot of flavor without much effort, and anything else you add like vegetables (or mushrooms!) gets a long time to blend its flavors with the rice. It’s a fun way to class up a meal for pretty cheap (like with blackened catfish, for example).
We used brown button (or crimini or baby bella) mushrooms because that’s what we had available, but when we make it again I would like to splurge a few more dollars for some shiitakes or maitakes or some other, wilder varieties. If you know where to look, you can find some good deals on nice mushrooms; this is also a case where re-hydrated dried mushrooms would work extremely well.
One last note: you don’t necessarily have to use arborio rice or any of the traditional Italian short grained varieties, but they’ll work really well if you can find them. I will be strict though and say that you need to use some kind of very short-grained rice, because it actually makes a difference compared to medium- or long-grained versions. My rice was actually sushi rice that I bought in a big bag in a little Asian store, because I like to have different grain lengths available. (One of my other favorites is getting 10 pound bags of basmati at Indian grocery stores. You gotta check out places like that!)
This recipe is from BBC, with minor variations.
Simple Mushroom Risotto Recipe
2 tb olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz brown mushrooms, chopped
2 cups short-grain rice (arborio, etc)
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups hot chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
2 tb chopped fresh parsley (or 2 tsp dried)
2 tb butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus more to serve (not the powdery stuff)
Heat the stock on your stove. If you’re smart and have some frozen in convenient portions, you can dilute it in the right amount of water to get your 4 cups.
Heat the oil and gently sautee/sweat the onions at medium heat for a few minutes until they start to turn translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to sautee for 5 minutes or so.
Add the rice and mix it in with the oil and vegetables, allowing it to enjoy the party for a minute. Add the wine all at once and stir until it is absorbed into the rice.
Start adding your stock to the rice a ladle’s worth at a time, stirring until each portion is absorbed and the rice looks fairly dry (not soupy anymore).
Continue adding your stock until it’s used up. Taste some rice; if the texture is still pretty far from done, continue to add more stock or water for a few minutes until you like the consistency.
Once it’s fluffy and sticky and soft, add the salt, pepper, butter, and parsley. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
Serve as soon as possible, with additional parmesan to garnish. Enjoy!
What’s your favorite flavoring for risotto? Any ideas?
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