I have (and The Gentleman may have stronger views on this) a small collection of cookbooks and other miscellaneous crap around the house. The front room/craft room/crap room needs a serious makeover, clean out, redo, gutting, for-like over a year. Basically since post-wedding, it’s been crap-ville-town. So, yeah. Real life.
One giant pile of stuff is a gazillion magazine clippings from over the years of recipes, patterns, ideas that I’ve found and somehow thought I would organize into easily accessible notebooks. Brilliant theory, but not reality. Or all those recipes I asked for after a potluck that I will make one day but have random copies or handwritten notes tucked around. Those are in this pile too.
The other thing I’m seriously guilty of, and have previously admitted to, is my adeptness at losing favorite and cherished recipes. Nothing like the holidays and traditions to make you freak out because you can’t find the sugar cookie recipe before the Christmas cookie decorating party.
Today, Pinterest is such a brilliant addition to my life! It’s become my new “magazine flipping” and organizes my “clippings” instantly and it’s searchable and I love it. (You can follow me if you want to). I am so thankful it was around when I was wedding planning! Now my dream is to get rid of the paper and just have Pinterest (and pray that they never, ever go away).
So, I had an idea to try and help with my horrible collection/crap pile of magazine clippings, my cherished recipes that I only make once a year and can never seem to find, and those favorites that I’ve been making for years and are now rote — and I just want to have available in one place: I’m going to start writing about them here. My hope is that every couple of weeks, I’ll take one of those “some day I’ll make this” recipes, make it and share it with you. Or that as I make those favorite and cherished recipes during a holiday or event, with a couple of pictures and maybe a few memories. Or that I’ll actually try and write down how I make my lentil soup and the ten variations of it based on what I did or didn’t get at the store or thought I had in the cupboards.
Hopefully you’ll join me on this little adventure as you do on my other little adventures around the water’s edge, and we’re still having lots of adventures, and greyhounds and chickens and Lewis and waves and forests. Now, this is not a food blog. I’m not a food photographer. Most of these (especially for the next several months) will be shot at night, after work, with my iphone. Real life. One day I’ll take a picture of the pile of clippings and you’ll understand why I needed a plan of attack.
So! Let’s start this adventure with Risotto!
It’s one of the first things I learned how to make after I ‘grew up,’ and it was something we had never made at home. I’m not sure when I first had risotto, but I can picture many times making it beginning in my early twenties, many different recipes, a couple utter failures, lots of laughter, many friends taking turns stirring. There have been lots of different kitchens, and pots and spoons. Two different trips to Italy where I tried it at almost every meal. It’s warm and cozy and hearty, and I’ve eaten leftovers cold, warm, fried, in casseroles. It’s forgiving and sustaining and makes everyone involved feel like family, like they’re home.
I think this recipe may have come from Martha Stewart, maybe. It’s been with me for almost twenty years. This is what I know: Use aborio rice, do not try any other rice. Do use white wine, preferably a dry (chardonnay, pinot grigio over a riesling or dessert wine), but buy a wine you will enjoy drinking. I use white onions instead of shallots. Use a big pot or skillet; risotto starts off small but will fill a big pot by the time you’re done. Give yourself time to make the risotto — there’s lots of stirring — and you really should add 3/4 to 1 cup of stock at a time (go ahead and have it boiling on the burner next to your risotto pot); it transforms the rice, completely. Once you’ve made this recipe, its very easy to make variations: add grated carrots with the onions, add cubed, roasted butternut squash at the end. Chopped cooked chicken? Shrimp? Kale or spinach? Fresh tomatoes? Fresh herbs? Peas and chopped ham or bacon? Use leeks instead of onions? Lots and lots of variations.
Saute the onions and olive oil. Add the rice and stir until it makes a clicking noise. Yes, the sound changes.
Then add in the wine and stir until it’s absorbed. It releases the starches of the rice and makes the edge of the rice translucent. Then you start adding the chicken stock 3/4 cup at a time. And stir. Once the rice has absorbed most of the stock and you can pull your spoon across the bottom and it looks something like this, you can add the next 3/4 cup of stock and stir until it’s absorbed. When you get about half way through adding the stock, the spoon-through-the-rice trick will create a less obvious trail, but the stock should be absorbed before adding more.
During this part of the cooking, have a glass of wine. Share the stirring. Listen to loud music and dance around your kitchen. This is hearty, loving food. Live some life while you make it, share some love, enjoy the process.
Usually I try and get all 8 cups of stock into the risotto, but this batch I should have stopped at 7 cups, but the boiled down stock looked so rich that I just put that last cup in, and it took a long time for it to absorb. Oh, well, still tasted amazing, just added extra cooking time before we got to eat.
We also had a high wind warning going on while I was making this pot of risotto. That gave me a chance to find our little tea light lantern and get it working. I sure was hoping that we wouldn’t lose power while I was cooking. We were very lucky and just had standard wind speeds for our area. Other parts of Oregon and Washington that normally don’t get high winds, were the ones who ended up with them.
If you were adding cooked chicken or shrimp or butternut squash, I would add them in with the last addition of stock, so they warm up in those last couple minutes of cooking. Once all the stock is absorbed, add butter, parmesan and I always add pepper; I’ve found the stock adds plenty of salt, so I never add extra. Now is the point that I’d add fresh herbs as well. I sprinkle everything on top and let it melt a minute or two and then stir it all together.
The starches released from the rice and the addition of butter change the consistency of the risotto, almost like a roux makes changes a cream soup. It’s magical.
It’s creamy, lovely, heartiness. Get big bowls and a glass of wine and a salad and have a cozy meal.
Leftover ideas, because you will have leftovers: I actually really like it cold, but I’m weird. It’s really good warmed up, either microwaved or in a pot slowly warmed back up on the stove. Make little patties, coated in panko and fry them in a little olive oil and butter (arancini). Make little balls with a piece of fresh mozzarella in the middle and then fry them. Or, take those same balls, put them in a baking dish and cover with a good red pasta sauce and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. You can add herbs or other things into the risotto before you do any of these things to change the base flavor. My other favorite thing it to use it to leftover risotto in any casserole that I would put rice in. It’s buttery cheesy loveliness will take your favorite rice based casserole to a whole new level.
I hope this encourages you to try making your own risotto. It’s one of those classic italian recipes where good ingredients and some time and love equals a simple dish that feels luxurious and connected and miraculous every time I make it. Stay warm and cozy this winter!