Everyone remembers their first time. The nervousness to try something new, the uncertainty of whether to dive right in or take it slow, the afterglow of something so magnificent you want to have it all over again– Wait… what do you think I’m talking about? I mean the first time you had risotto. Not that. You do remember the first time you had risotto, right? It was a life changing experience for me. That that little, unassuming bowl of rice could really be a creamy, parmesan-y bite of heaven itself blew my mind. I knew I had to made it for myself. Too bad, I was told. Risotto is hard– too hard for a novice cook to master.
Luckily I have a rebellious streak in me that said “Oh yeah, Mr. TV chef big-shot? Watch this!” An hour later I was sitting on my couch, enjoying a bowl of (almost) perfectly prepared Parmesan risotto. The moral of this story? RISOTTO ISN’T HARD! It takes a lot of preparation, patience, stirring, and more patience. But let me tell you… it’s totally, hands-down, absolutely, undeniably worth it.
This is my favorite risotto to make at home, especially on Meatless Monday (more on that in another post). The mushrooms and beef stock give the risotto a meaty, unctuous flavor that make you forget you’re not eating meat. This recipe will blow away your friends (but I prefer to make it for myself… more for me!).
Better-Than-Sex Mushroom Risotto
1 c. Arborio rice (yes, it has to be Arborio)
1/2 onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, diced
2/3 c. Sherry wine, divided (you can use white wine if you don’t have/don’t like Sherry)
3 Tbsp. butter, divided (I only said this was good, not good for you)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 c. beef broth
1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated (you don’t have to use the real stuff, but you won’t regret it)
1/4 c. heavy cream (again, this is good, not good for you)
1 lb. Crimini Mushrooms (I buy mine pre-sliced)
1. Making risotto is like riding a roller coaster– once you start, you can’t stop or things don’t turn out so well (even if you don’t end up hanging upside down at the top of a loop). That being said, prepare everything in advance:
a. Dice your onion and garlic. Set aside.
b. Bring the beef broth to a boil in a separate sauce pan.
c. Grate your Parmesan. Set aside.
d. Measure out 1/3 c. Sherry, 1 1/2 Tbsp butter, and have your olive oil handy.
e. Measure out 1 c. Arborio rice.
f. Find your favorite saute pan, wooden spoon, and ladle.
2. Add 1 Tbsp Olive and 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter to a skillet over medium heat (at this point, you could add 1 clove minced garlic and 1/2 diced onion if you so choose, but in this case, I didn’t). Add the mushrooms, stirring to coat them in the oil/butter. Mushrooms are like tiny, tasty sponges, so they will quickly soak up all the liquid in your skillet. When the skillet starts to look dry, add 1/3 c. of Sherry (I also like to add another small pat of butter at this point, but if you’re concerned with calories, you can leave it out). Let the mushrooms simmer for a few minutes, then set them aside.
3. In your saute pan, add Add 1 Tbsp Olive and 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent (really just until shiny and a little see-through than white). Patience is the secret to good risotto, so saute over medium heat. If you go higher here you run the risk of browning your garlic.
4. Add the rice to the saute pan with the onions and garlic. Stir to coat with the oil and butter. Once the rice is roasty-toasty (give it a minute or two), add the Sherry. Stir the rice until the Sherry is mostly absorbed.
5. This is the most important part of risotto making. Once the sherry is mostly absorbed, add your first ladle of stock, then stir like mad (not as in flinging rice all over your kitchen mad, but as in baby-don’t stop mad). It won’t take long for your first ladle to be absorbed, so be ready to add your second ladle. Keep stirring. Never stop stirring (ok, maybe long enough to ladle).
You’ll keep this up until your rice is nice and soft. Go ahead and take a small bite after about four ladles. The rice will likely still be crunchy at this stage. Continue to sample after each ladle until your rice reaches the bite you like. In this case, it took me about eight ladles. It may take you more, it may take you less. Either way, it will take some time.
5. Add the mushrooms (and any juicy goodness) you prepared earlier to the risotto and stir. Then add the grated Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine. Finally, add the heavy cream (this isn’t necessary, but makes the consistency much, much creamier). Stir. Again.
6. Plate and enjoy. Garnish is optional (although a little fresh Italian parsley would go a long way sprinkled on top).
This is my single favorite meal to make when I’m home alone. For some reason, its right up there with bubble baths, good wine, and shooting things on the chill-out scale.
You can adapt this recipe to whatever you have in your kitchen. Have chicken stock, white wine and squash/shrimp/asparagus? Switch them out for the beef stock, Sherry, and mushrooms. It’s a completely different taste, but still amazingly delicious (and quite possibly better-than-sex).