Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Original Choose Your Own Adventure Recipe: Risotto

Since I'm taking a lil' break from fostering, I thought I'd pepper in some of the other topics I occasionally write about - for example, COOKING!  Making a good meal that elicits a mouthful-o-food-deep-from-the-gut "yum" from my husband is about the second best thing to dogs in my book.  One of the first recipes that I conquered well enough to start experimenting extensively-without constantly screwing up new versions-was risotto.  Risotto is a bit like a shy dog - you can't hurry it; you must let it go at its own pace.  Patience is key to a good risotto.

The following Choose your Own Adventure Risotto recipe is what started my idea for Choose Your Own Adventure cooking.  It's geared towards illustrating what possibilities exist once you think outside the recipe.  It's not necessary to have a recipe for every single variation - what's key is understanding what's essential about the dish, the correct proportion of ingredients and what combinations of potential ingredients can make a standard dish into something extraordinary.  I don't always get it right - sometimes my experiments end up pretty disastrous but that's what pizza delivery is for, right?

Without further ado, Choose Your Own Adventure Risotto (artichoke is the featured ingredient as this was a recipe challenge created for Julie Vs Vegetables during her Artichoke week - I'm especially proud that this was one of her few blog posts prominently featuring her sweet pooch Maggie, even if Mags did screw up risotto night!):

Choose Your Own Adventure Risotto

The Point
1 Cup Canned Artichoke Hearts, chopped 

The Choose Your Own Part
I Need Meat~          1 Large or 2 Small Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast(s), cut into 1" pieces

I Like Fungus ~      1 1/2 Cups Crimini Mushrooms, Sliced

Veg-Heaven~        1 bunch spinach, chopped
1/3 c sundried tomatoes, chopped

The JBP Original~Mix and match any combination of above (or choose an ingredient truly your own) for the true choose your own adventure.  The possibilities are endless - chicken & asparagus, peppers & onions, spinach & mushrooms, etc.  I think the next variation I'm going to try may be a crab risotto.  Doesn't that sound delish???

The Risotto Regulars

1 T Olive Oil
1 Shallot, Chopped
2 minced Garlic Cloves
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
4 c Broth, chicken or veggie.  But get enough for 6 cups of broth.  You might need it.  You’ll use an extra 1/3 c broth if you go the wine route
1 t Oregano
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/3 c grated Parmesan Cheese
1/3 c dry white wine or cream

You can supplement the broth with either cream or dry white wine.  Cream obviously makes it even more creamy but the white wine gives it an edge.  Think Goat Cheese vs An Aged White Vermont Cheddar.  Generally, when you use the white wine, you’ll use more broth to achieve the same level of creaminess of the rice.  You can also just do broth by itself, but that tends to be a little bland so plan on tasting lots and adding more spices as necessary.

Do all your chopping and measuring first, cooking show styleThis is 100% necessary with risotto - everything must be pre-chopped and measured because sh** happens fast!

Warm your broth in the microwave, about 60-90 seconds. If you are using cream, add it to the broth and warm together.

Heat the oil and melt butter in a large skillet or wok (medium-high heat).   I have found that my wok generally makes the best risotto.  No idea why.

Saute shallot and garlic for a few minutes, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn’t burn.  Add Artichokes and saute another minute or so.

I Like Meat ~ Add chicken prior to artichokes and saute for 6-8 minutes or until white and slightly browning.  Remove from pan and keep warm. Now add the artichokes to the pan.
­I Like Fungus~ Add mushrooms with artichokes and cook for a couple minutes.  Keep in pan when you add in rice.
Veg-Heaven~ Go directly to adding rice.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200. (PS - if you are using your own veggies, like peppers or asparagus, they should be sauteed after adding shallots & garlic and then removed so they don't get too soft, to be added back in at the end.  When using veggies like sun-dried tomatoes and spinach, these do not need to be added until close to the end.)

Add Rice and stir constantly until rice looks translucent.  Not more than a couple minutes.  I had a lot of trouble at first determining when rice is "translucent".  So don't sweat it if you have no idea what this means.  By about your 5th risotto, you'll probably start being able to tell a difference; it's pretty subtle.

Mix in Oregano.  Add white wine or 1/3 c broth (if you’re using cream).  Stir constantly and liquid will be absorbed within a minute or so. 

Turn heat down to medium.

Add ½ c broth at a time, adding an additional ½ c once the liquid has been absorbed almost completely.  The goal is to never let the rice stick to the bottom of the pan so when you first add the broth, you have to stir pretty constantly.  As you add more broth, stirring can become less frequent but don’t leave it alone for more than a few minutes. Bottom line:  you can never stir risotto too much but you can seriously screw it up if you leave it alone for too long.

Veg-Heaven~When you have added the 3rd  ½ cup of broth, add the spinach. 

When you have used 3 cups of broth, it’s time to:

Taste the rice to see how creamy it is.  If it’s still a little chewy-ish, then keep adding another ½ c broth at a time until it’s totally melt in your mouth creamy.  There have been a few times where I’ve found that I need to warm up more broth and keep going.  You didn’t f*** it up if you use all 4 cups of broth and find that you still need more.  I mean, you probably didn’t cook the rice long enough but the end result will be just as awesome.  You just need to keep going with the broth until it gets there.  This is the patience part of risotto!

I Like Meat~Add the chicken back in.
Veg-Heaven~Add the sundried tomatoes (and any other veggies that may have been cooked then removed from pan).

Cook and stir for a few minutes more until the chicken and tomatoes are warm.

Add the parmesan cheese and give it a good sprinkle of pepper and salt.  For a restaurant-style risotto, you can also add a 1 T butter at the end with the cheese.  I generally leave this out unless I really want to impress guests as it just adds that much more fat.

Remove from heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Bon Appetit!


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