#MeatlessMonday Let’s Talk Risotto

Happy #MeatlessMonday everyone!   Today,

Let’s Talk Risotto

I don’t know if I have ever gone into the risotto making process, but it was a dish I set out to conqueror when I decided I was going to be a serious home chef.  So, it always has that feeling of being really important, even if it’s not that difficult to make.  Even better, it makes a satisfying, hearty vegetarian dish.

You know, I say that it’s not difficult to make, but it’s not entirely difficult to mess it up, either.  The good news is that I’ve made most of the mistakes one can make when cooking risotto and I’ve boiled them down in the following essay I call “Making Risotto.”

Making Risotto

Okay, so there are a few things to keep in mind when making risottos.  First, no matter how you’ve heard Gordon Ramsey pronounce it on Hell’s Kitchen, it’s “ruh-ZO-toe”, not “ree-SOT-to.”

In all seriousness, the real first thing you have to think about when making risotto, however you pronounce it, is the rice.  You need an Italian short grain rice, which usually means, Arborio rice.  Why?  Because it can hold a lot of liquid (good for flavor) and because it’s full of starch  (good for making the risotto creamy.)  You can still use the risotto technique on other rice grains, but it’s not going to be the same.

The second thing to think about when making a risotto is the liquid you are going to use to cook the rice.  See, the risotto making process includes cooking the rice slowly by adding cooking liquid a ladle or two at a time.  Most of the flavor of the dish is going to come from whatever went to flavor the liquid.

A lot of times you’ll see risottos start with an alcohol (white wine and champagne are my two personal favorites.)  After that, the recipes just call for “broth or stock.”

Balderdash I say!  (I really do say balderdash, actually.)  Yes, you want to use a broth or a stock, but you want to use one that is has a really nice flavor.  This excludes store bought broths.  (They’re good, but they’re not risotto good.)  So, if you bought your broth/stock from the store, you should really think about adding your own flavors (what chefs call fortifying it.)  We’ll be fortifying our stock in the following recipe.

Now you may be asking yourself why we can’t just add nothing but alcohol.  Well, I have it on good authority that a) it doesn’t taste very good and b) it doesn’t cream up like a risotto should.  So, there you have it, we start with liquor, then we’ll use good-old fortified stock.

Now, recipe time.

Mushroom White Wine Risotto

This is a great risotto, made hearty with some lovely mushrooms.

You will need:

  • 2 onions, 1 minced, the other roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 8 cups broth or stock
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound assorted mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • (optional) 1/2 mascarpone cheese
  • Parmesan cheese

Yes, I realize the ingredient list is a little convoluted.  That’s because we’re making three things: the stock, the mushrooms, and the risotto itself.

First, the stock.

Put the roughly cut onion, carrots, celery, and cilantro in a pot with the broth/stock.  Bring to a boil and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.  Taste the stock.  Is it awesome?  If not, keep cooking it for a while longer.

Next, make the mushrooms.  6 oz (3/4) of the stick of butter goes into a skillet.  Once melted, add the garlic and stir it around in the butter.  Then add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt.  Cook until the mushrooms are brown and shriveled.

Now, it’s risotto time.

In a skillet with high sides, add the olive oil and let it get hot over medium-high heat.  Once hot, add the minced onion and another pinch of salt.  Cook until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes.  Then add the rice and toast for about a minute, stirring so that the rice is coated in oil and onion as much as possible.

Add the white wine.  Let the rice cook until it is completely dissolved.  Then add the 2 ladles of stock, stir, and let the rice cook.  Continue adding stock until the rice is fully cooked through and cannot absorb any more liquid.  (Believe me, that’s going to take a lot of stock.)  Then add in the mushrooms and stir until they are warm.

Stir in the rest of the butter and mascarpone cheese (if you want.)  Top with Parmesan and serve immediately.

As my old culinary teacher Cody Hogan once said, the guests must wait on the risotto, because the risotto will not wait on the guests.  So, what are you waiting for?


Note: if you find that your rice is too hard, try lowering your heat to either medium or the space between medium and medium-high.

If that doesn’t help, try toasting your rice for a shorter period of time.  I’ve heard it’s possible to overcook the outside of the rice so much it can’t absorb liquid.

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