Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Even Foodies Get Scared

In 2009 I was lucky enough to study abroad in Italy. There I learned what risotto is supposed to taste like: creamy, al dente, savory and flavorful. In the States, I'd never had a good plate of it, so it's no wonder I thought I didn't like it. Well, after having the proper risotto, I was scared I'd never be able to match the wonderful consistency. So for the past 2 years I have relished in the memory of a truly amazing risotto but never ordered any nor tried my hand at recreating it. Until now.

I have to say, blogging has made me more confident in my abilities in the kitchen. The idea to finally make risotto was born about 2 months ago. I slowly took baby steps towards the event: I bought a bag of arborio rice 1 month ago, a week later I received my Martha Stewart Everyday Risotto recipe (it was fate), and then, during my last trip to the store I picked up the rest of the ingredients.

I made some substitutions to the recipe because I thought the flavors would work well together. The key to risotto, I learned, is really understanding your star ingredient: the rice. I tried it at various stages to know what it tastes like when in was undercooked vs. al dente. And I was patient, coaxing the starches out and adding flavor. The substitution of pecorino for Parmesan was a great idea since it gave the dish an extra punch of flavor.

What you need:

1 container button or whatever mushroom you like, quartered
1 onion, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, chopped small
salt, pepper
1/4 cup cooking sherry or 1/2 cup white wine
1/2 tsp dried sage (tarragon would be good, too)
6 cups chicken stock (or 5 cups plus a cup of water if you want to stretch it, like I did)
1 package (1 and a half cups) arborio rice
4 Tbs butter, divided

What you do:

Start the stock heating in a saucepan - let it come to a simmer and keep warm throughout the cooking process.

Melt 2 Tbs of butter in a heavy-bottom pot. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until wilted slightly. Add the rice and cook about 3 minutes, until the grains are opaque on the edges. I just let them toast and turn a light brown color. Once I felt them sticking to the bottom of the pot, I added 1/4 cup cooking sherry and the sage. That cooked out in about 4 minutes, then I added my first cup of stock.

Stir for about 4 minutes, until the cup of stock had cooked out. Add the next cup and continue about 6 more times, letting it cook out each time. I set a time next to me so I knew I was waiting the correct amount of time and not getting antsy. I also tasted after the 5th time so I could tell how far along the rice was.

When it's the right consistency (creamy but a tad tough in the middle of the rice), turn off the heat and add 2 more Tbs butter and 1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino

Serve immediately with a little more shaved pecorino. I wouldn't recommend storing this but you can - it will just be a little drier and not as creamy.

All in all, I am incredibly proud of myself. But I owe the experience to you, my readers, because with each view, I am little more confident that I have the skills to master the things I am afraid of.


  1. That looks amazing, and you really were clearly very patient with it- I am incredibly impressed!

  2. I need to take you out for the best risotto in town (Sensi), in turn, you can make me a batch of your own.