So for Halloween I decided that some Risotto might be nice. Well I’m not sure I made that decision but I did go to the store and pick up the Veggie stock, veggies, and other sundry items. Thanks Fred Meyer.
Risotto is one of those things that’s either great, like a symphony – or it’s wallpaper paste and it sucks. Not much in between. I can’t tell you yours is going to come out perfect every time – we’ve had some epic failure (some that might be holding up some wallpaper somewhere to this very day). But the “this is the best risotto I’ve ever had” moments make the work all worth it – and truth be told it comes out great 95% of the time.
Risotto starts with the right kind of rice. Arborio rice. They look like little teardrops, sort of. Little pearly sort-of teardrops. Don’t cheap out on rice. Cheap rice gets starchy and it can make that wall paper paste-glue kinda thing happen all too easy. You needn’t spend a fortune, just don’t buy junk and expect a miracle.
You can make this in most any vessel. Normally we do it in a non-stick pan. Today we decided to do it the ever-present enameled dutch oven. Let’s start with some fat. I roasted a chicken last week and popped the renderings in the fridge, awaiting an opportunity just like this.
Before we get to cooking the risotto itself, it’s imperative to warm up the stock and wine mixture. I use the same pot that I cook my asparagus in. You’ll want all this liquid goodness somewhere around 160 degrees F. Below boiling, like a poach.
Once the stock has warmed, get your pan of choice heated up, around medium. 5 is good on our electric stove, maybe a little more. I used the chicken fat and some oil (you can use olive oil, tonight we used Moroccan Grapeseed Oil (that’s what happens when you visit a store that sells nothing but oils…) Let that heat while you get a decent-sized onion chopped up.
Drop the onion in and let it get going for a little bit Once it starts to become translucent, you can go ahead and add the mushrooms (if you’re in the mood). I have mixed feelings on mushrooms. I think they add a ton of flavor – it’s really hip to say Umami (a loanword from Japanese which means “pleasant savory taste” – I believe it actually means “to taste like dirt”)… but I digress. Let me be clear – that’s not really fair. I love the smell and taste they impart. I do not like to actually put them in my mouth so much. But I do because that doesn’t make much sense and I’m trying to be a big boy as I get older in regards to food…) One last note on the mushrooms – if you really can’t stand the idea of eating mushrooms, you can still get all their delicious flavor by soaking dried mushrooms in the hot stock mixture. Now that the onions and mushrooms are cooking along nicely in the fat, it’s a good time to add your spices; basil, salt, some fresh ground pepper, and garlic powder.
You must, must, must, make sure that nothing burns. At all, ever. Which is why you must really stir continually from this point on. You can now dump your two cups of rice in with the fat, and onion, and mushrooms. Give about 3-4 minutes to cook in the oil, then start adding the stock/oil mix. You’ll want to add about 3/4 of a cup at a time – it’s a decent size ladle full. You need not be exact. Here’s where you really, really need to start stirring, quite constantly.
The key to this is figuring out when to add more stock. 2-3 minutes between ladle-fulls is a fairly good guideline. Even better is to take something like a wooden “spoon” with a flat side and streak it across the bottom. The resulting clean streak on the pan bottom should cover back up in several seconds – like 3 or 4 maybe. Each time you get to that point – add more stock – same amount. Keep that up until you’re pretty much through the wine/stock mix (you may not need all the stock – once you get near the end you want it to look creamy and appetizing. Go too far and you’ll end up with glue. If it’s tasting and looking good and you have half a cup of stock left – don’t go there.
Once you’re done incorporating the stock, in with the butter and Reggiano. Mix it up well, give it a few minutes to mix and melt in. And you’re done. Just keep stirring…constantly. You can take it off the heat somewhere around here. Just remember that risotto waits for no man. When it comes off the stove top it’s done. Serve immediately. Eat immediately.
When you’re out of stock and you’re nearing done, you can pop your asparagus on. I steam mine in a neat little tall pot with its own little cage inside. How cute! It makes fantastic asparagus in a scant 3 minutes. Here’s a little tip with asparagus. Don’t eat the bottom. It’s wood. If you take one stalk and grab both ends – bend it. Keep going. Keep going. Let it break where it wants to break. It’ll probably be in the middle somewhere. That’s where you want to cut the rest. Most often it’s about in the middle. Toss the rest or feed it to the pigs, or compost it. Whatever you do, don’t eat it. Seems wasteful – it’s not. It’s the best thing you can do for your asparagus – you’ll love yourself if you try it, I promise.
Once the asparagus is done you can either chop it up a bit and add it to your risotto – which will be done at this point. Or you can pop it on top or next to it. Feel free to add some more Reggiano on top if you like. Enjoy it, quickly.
- 2 Cups Arborio Rice
- 4 Cups Vegetable Stock
- 2 Cups Chicken Stock
- 1 Cup White Wine
- 1 Medium to Large Onion Chopped
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Basil
- 2 Tablespoons Chicken Fat (Renderings) – replace with Butter (convenient and vegetarian)
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil (or other good quality oil)
- 1 Cup Grated Parmesan Reggiano
- 1/2 Cup Butter
- 1 Package Mushrooms (Your Choice on kind and amount)
- About a Pound or So of Asparagus