Risot-totally Tasty

There really is no winter in Florida. That doesn’t stop true Floridians from breaking out the sweaters and scarves the second it hits 60. We get about a week of minor chill and WE TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.

So, when I felt the first slightly cool breeze in the air I immediately craved risotto. It’s warm and hearty; perfect for a ‘winter’ night. It may have been 74 degrees outside when I made it but I was in the spirit. 

Risotto is also (and I know, I’m always singing the praises of this) very easy. It requires a little attention but as long as you can stir for a few minutes you’re gonna be just fine. This is just another reason to add to my “Why I Can’t Live in the North” list. My arm gets tired and if I had to make this every night I would look like Popeye with one really strong stirring arm and no one thinks that’s cute.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bunch asparagus (I realize I probably should have measured this in cups or something but that’s how asparagus is sold, okay?)
  • 2 cups baby bella mushrooms (one container), sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon mushroom soy (or regular soy is fine)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon paste
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 4 oz good-quality butter
  • 1 cup parmesan, finely ground in the food processor.
  • Parsley (for garnish)

The Breakdown:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the chicken broth and wine over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, you can reduce the heat to simmer and cover. It just needs to stay warm. Throw a ladle in that sucker.
  2. In a shallow pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat, sear the mushrooms in half of the butter. Add the soy and bouillon paste. When the mushrooms have softened and browned, when they smell like heaven and happiness, (about 6-8 minutes), put them into a bowl and set aside. Try not to eat them all before you get to the good part.
  3. Melt the rest of the butter in the dutch oven over medium heat and add the diced onion. Sauté for 5-7 minutes or until softened, but not browned.
  4. Add the rice. Keep it moving while it toasts and let it soak up that tasty butter. After about 5 minutes, when the grains are translucent around the edges, add in the first ladle-full of liquid. Stir well until the rice is nearly dry again.
  5. This process is gonna be repeated, ladle by ladle, until all of that liquid has been incorporated. You don’t have to stir hard the whole time after the first ladle-full. Just keep incorporating and make sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
  6. During this process, take the asparagus and throw it in the liquid for three minutes. Take it out and immediately place it in ice water to stop the cooking process. Slice on the bias (diagonally) into 1-inch pieces.
  7. Once all of the liquid has been incorporated (about 20-25 minutes), taste to make sure it’s cooked through. It should be soft but still have a little bite to it (think al dente). If it isn’t finished, you can just add some more chicken stock or water slowly until it gets there. This time, mine required an extra splash of broth.
  8. When the rice is done, stir in your mushrooms and asparagus. Stir for 1-2 minutes or until they are heated through.
  9. Off the heat, stir in the parmesan. Taste for salt and adjust as necessary. Since I used the bouillon paste and soy, mine didn’t need much extra salt, just a healthy dose of cracked black pepper. Serve immediately with parsley garnish.

Risotto, like eggs, is a dish made for creativity. Beyond the rice, butter, and chicken broth/wine combo, it’s easily customizable. Oh and don’t leave out the cheese. Ever.

Really though, tasty cheese rice is a vehicle for so many great flavors. I’ve added pancetta, different veggies, even a red-wine risotto would be good. Just pick one to two ingredients and toss ’em in there.

Warm and cheesy, this absolutely satisfied my winter munchies. The best part is those crisp, bright green bites of asparagus. 1 1/2 cups of rice doesn’t seem like much, but risotto is so filling that this easily fed four. My best friend came over to sous chef for me (if I promise him dinner he will happily chop things) and so he deserves a shoutout for those beautiful asparagus chunks, although I’m pretty sure he has no concept of an inch they were all tiny. BUT DELICIOUS. Thanks, P.

 

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