I’ve been tentative about risotto. Not about eating it. Who doesn’t love a plate full of starch? But about making it. Though I love it, I’d never made it before. And it turns out to be easier to make than I had thought; it just requires attention now and then. Not constant attention as some people may think. Just the occasional, prevent-from-sticking kind of stirring.
Use Italian Arborio rice for the best results. This short-grain rice retains a creaminess and slight chew. Since there are 5 cups of stock in this recipe, it’s important to use the best quality stock you can find. I like to buy veal stock at the local butcher (or make it from scratch if there’s time). The stock should be warmed so that it absorbs quickly, otherwise you’ll be waiting after each addition for the rice to absorb the stock and the final texture will be mushy. I put my stock in the microwave for about 5 minutes to warm.
You can use any variety of mushrooms you can find at the market. I found some wild mushrooms at a small specialty food store downtown. Use other seasonal vegetables for color and variety (such as pumpkin in the fall or asparagus in the spring).
To pair with the risotto, I picked an Italian Chianti. This one comes from a region in Italy near Florence. It’s peppery, organic and good value. And with a sword-carrying black angel on the label, you’ll have no trouble finding it on the shelf at least.
“Kids today want to eat their risotto with curry and shrimp and sour cream, not risotto alla Milanese, like they should, in my opinion.” – Mario Batali
Well, my kids today won’t eat risotto. But I know they will someday! And when they learn to love it as I do, I’ll be ready to teach them how to make it.
Serves 4 as a main dish
3 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
For the vegetables:
1 onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
2 green onions, whites, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups (8 oz) mushrooms, chopped
(keep trimmings for making mushroom broth)
1 cup butternut squash, diced
½ cup (about 2 stalks) celery, diced
Sage, 5 leaves, chopped finely
Thyme, 2-3 sprigs, chopped finely
2-3 tablespoons parsley, chopped finely
For the mushroom broth:
½ cup white wine
2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups stock, warmed
1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 green onions, green parts, sliced, for garnish
Parmesan, grated or sliced, for garnish
Prepare the mushrooms:
Clean the mushrooms. Cut off the stems and place them in a small, heavy pot. Cover with water. Over medium heat, simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain and set the broth aside.
Prepare the vegetables:
While the mushroom stems are steeping, heat a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When hot, add the onion, shallot and green onion. Cook until the mixture starts to turn slightly golden, about 6-8 minutes. Stir occasionally so that the mixture doesn’t darken. Add the garlic and stir for about 1 minute. Transfer this mixture to a bowl.
Heat the pan and add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When hot, add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms have given off their liquid, about 5-7 minutes. Then season with some salt and pepper. Cook about 1 minute more. Mix with the onion mixture.
Heat the pan and add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When hot, add the squash and celery. Cook until squash is almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Mix with the onion-mushroom mixture. Add the sage, thyme and parsley. Set aside.
Prepare the rice:
In the remaining butter or oil (or if necessary add more butter or oil if it’s all been absorbed by the previous steps), stir the rice and toast it for about 5 minutes, stirring to avoid it from sticking to the pan. Add the wine. Stir until the wine is absorbed into the rice. Set the heat to medium-low. Add 1 cup of warmed broth. Stir until the broth is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Repeat this step until all the broth has been incorporated and it tastes al dente. Gently stir in the onion-mushroom-squash mixture. Add the Balsamic vinegar. Stir in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
Garnish with green onions and Parmesan. Serve hot.
As a perpetual student in the kitchen, I’m always buying a new ingredient at the market, reading a cookbook, collecting food props for photography or browsing the kitchen gadget stores. After the encouragement of winning a recipe contest when I was 10 years old, I have been collecting recipes ever since. Now I write about my food experiences on my blog (whiskblog.com) as I work my way through a cooking school curriculum. I also enjoy the table-side of the kitchen as a restaurant reviewer for a local commuter newspaper, and I freelance as a food editor for a new magazine called Taste & Travel. Recently, I completed Basic Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa.