I once made a huge pot of risotto while taking recipe direction over the phone from a far away lover. While he instructed blindly into my ear I toiled. His voice was steady and soothing, but I could feel that something was terribly wrong. I had somehow doubled the rice proportion and even though I thought I was following along just fine I had failed to add enough liquid to the recipe. He told me that there would be much laborious stirring involved, and so I took him quite literally and continued to stir and stir and stir the stiff mass. “Is it supposed to be thick?” I asked as a cramp developed in my left forearm. “Oh yes!” he cooed in the phone, held uncomfortably squeezed between my shoulder and cheek. “Is it supposed to need a lot of stirring?” I questioned as I watched the ball of paste grow trying to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. “Yes lots of stirring!” He said simply, proving that everything is relative, “You have to make love to risotto. Keep up the touching. It takes time.” At this point the rice was the consistency of concrete mixed with glue rather than creamy, sensual risotto. I must have stirred that cement-like glob for an hour, my own sweat salting the pot in an act of accomplishment devoted only to my absent Love. Later, we made this recipe side by side with pale Champagne dancing in our touching glasses and the right amount of stock. Amazing! It was then I laughed at myself and my miscalculation. I smiled at the ease with which love could be made to risotto, my old wooden spoon gliding effortlessly around the pot beckoning me to touch its silky smoothness all over, and over and over again.
3 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup onion, diced
4 tablespoons of butter for sautéing
3 beautiful cloves of garlic, pressed
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & Pepper
¼ cup dry vermouth
6 cups of chicken stock (use 3 cubes of bullion for this stock)
2 cups grated hard cheese (parmigiano is good)
Your favorite wooden spoon
Risotto is a lovely way to end a stressful week and kick off a relaxing weekend on Friday night. The more frazzled you are the better. Let the Risotto comfort and soothe you starting with its sensual preparation. I like a little Charlie Parker in the background and at least six candles lighting my way.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in deep soup pot. With the heat on medium, slide in the diced onion, garlic and salt and pepper. Cook this until the onions are translucent and tender and the flavors start to blend. While the onions are cooking prepare your stock next door in a separate soup pan. It is very important to have the stock ready over medium heat and keep it hot, but not boiling. Once the onions have surrendered to the cause, add 4 tablespoons of olive oil and the rice. Using your favorite wooden spoon, stir to evenly coat each rice kernel with your love. Continue stirring during the whole next song. Let go of the tensions of the week, give yourself up in that deep warm pot which now smells just about like I imagine and hope that heaven does. After the rice is well coated with everything important in this fashion, add the vermouth and stir some more. Now that this foreplay is over add about 2 cups of the stock and stir again. At this point, she can simmer and think about things while you work on your mushrooms. As her liquid reduces keep replenishing cup by cup and stirring until the rice is cooked. Just keep an eye on, and your spoon nearby.
In a large sauté pan, start the mushrooms. Salt them well, add nothing else. Over medium heat they will sweat their own nectar soon. Let them cook down, adding just a bit more salt if needed to taste and maybe a twist of pepper, too. After the mushrooms are reduced down a bit, add a chunk of butter to richen them up even more and shut off the heat. Now is a good time to grate your parmigiano reggiano and enjoy a little wine. After this, test your rice for doneness. The kernels should be the consistency of warm chestnuts – soft but not mushy and with a resilient texture. Blend two thirds of the sautéed mushrooms into the creamy risotto along with most of the grated cheese. Add a splash of olive oil to the remaining mushrooms and crisp them up a bit in the sauté pan. Ladle out plates of risotto and top with crispy mushrooms and a thoughtful toss of cheese. Sit down in the candlelight and savor the love.
My Perfect Pairing: Mouton Rothschild, 2000 Cabernet Merlot blend
From my notes: Super-rich violets, a floral explosion, dried lavender and pony fur, coffeepots and warm earthy nuts, my favorite.