I have taken to calling last week “VA Natural Disaster Week” – seems pretty appropriate after a 5.8 magnitude earthquake and a hurricane. Part of me is still waiting for a volcano to surface near Virginia Tech. With an earthquake behind me and a hurricane barreling up the coast, I decided Friday night was a perfect night to spoil myself. I try to do these types of nights once a month – pick a Friday or Saturday night, turn down all invitations to go out, make a rich indulgent dinner, spend an hour in a hot bath with a glass of wine and some awful chick-lit novel, and end with an equally indulgent dessert. Toss in a deep conditioning hair masque and a facial masque and I’m in heaven.
For this “me night” I was craving mushroom risotto, which I paired with a simple seared diver scallop. Risotto is time consuming but not difficult, follow a few very simple but important rules and you can’t fail. First, your chicken stock must be kept simmering, so I put it in a separate pot and let it start to boil while I chop my mushrooms and garlic, then reduce to a simmer when I start cooking. Second, stir, just keep stirring. By constantly stirring the risotto, you mix the starch from the rice grains into the liquid, creating the rich creamy base risotto is known for. I will step away from my risotto for a few seconds every now and then to work on prepping the rest of my dish: salting & peppering the scallops, adding oil to a pan, etc. Though, even while I am doing these little things, my mind is on the risotto.
1 tblspn butter
1 tblspn extra virgin olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups roughly chopped mushrooms (I usually just buy the 4 oz “gourmet mix” from the store and toss in half a dozen or so criminis for good measure)
1 cup arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
5 cups (approximate) chicken or vegetable stock
2/3 cup grated hard Italian cheese (parmesan, Romano, or Asiago)
1) Pour all of the stock into a medium sauce pan and begin heating over medium-high heat. While the stock heats, finely chop garlic cloves and roughly chop mushrooms.
2) In a separate, large sauce pan melt butter and heat olive oil together. Once butter is melted, add garlic and mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add rice and sauté for another 5 mintues. Add white wine and let simmer until liquid is reduced by half. (I encourage you to drink and share the rest of that bottle while you cook.) Reduce heat to medium/medium-low.
3) Using a ladle, begin by adding about 3 ladle fulls of stock. Stir constantly while the rice absorbs the liquid. Once the liquid is almost completely absorbed, add another 2 ladles of stock -continue this process until the liquid is gone. When the risotto is done, it will be just cooked, or al dente, and a bit chewy.
4) Reduce heat to low and add parmesan, 1/3 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition.
While risotto can easily be served as an independent meal, I like to serve my vegetable based risottos with a protein, scallops being my favorite option, and shrimp coming in a close second. I prepare the scallops simply, a little salt & pepper, seared over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes on each side. I also prefer to enjoy a light red, like a Spanish Garnacha or fruit forward Pinot Noir, but I have a friend who will only drink the wine used to cook the risotto with the finished product.