RISOTTO. The word strikes fear into the hearts of young and old, but there is absolutely NO reason that it should. Risotto is inexpensive AND insanely easy to make, and once you get the basics down, you can tweak it endlessly, making it perfect for transforming blah leftovers into something much more elegant. It’s creamy, warm, comforting, and satisfying– once you try it you’ll want to make it again and again, making it your own with different veggies and flavors.

This version uses mushrooms and vegetable stock to make it vegetarian, but feel free to sub in chicken broth and whatever veggies you like best. You can top it with roasted vegetables, meat, or seafood to make it more substantial– just plop it right on top of the creamy risotto pillow and wait for the tidal wave of compliments to wash over you. And if you’re vegan, you can leave out the parmesan without sacrificing much flavor– although you may want to add some lemon zest to give it a bit more oomph.

Make sure you have about 45 minutes for this one. Put on a good podcast, and let’s get to it.

You will need:

  • 1 Qt vegetable stock
  • 4 T butter
  • 12 oz. mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 C Arborio rice
  • 1/2 C dry white wine, like a sauvignon blanc or a chenin blanc (use one you like to drink!)
  • 2 t salt
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 to 1/2 C grated parmesan
  • 2 T chives

You’ll start by putting the stock in a pot over medium heat. When it starts to bubble, turn it down to a gentle simmer.

Prep your veggies: mince the shallot, garlic, and chives. Clean the mushrooms (I like to wipe them off with a wet paper towel), and pull off the stems. If you don’t want to toss the stems, put them in a Ziploc and freeze them– I do this with all of my veggie scraps, then toss the bag into water when it’s full to make a great homemade stock. Slice the smaller mushrooms and dice the larger ones.

Add 2 T of butter to a large sauté pan over medium heat. When it’s melty and foamy, add the mushrooms and about 1/2 t salt and a crank or two of pepper. Let the mushrooms cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms start to brown. Add the garlic and sauté for about 60 seconds, or until you can smell it getting garlicky. (I, of course, forgot the garlic, so I had to cook it separately and add it back in to the mushrooms. Do as I say, not as I do.) Scrape the garlic/mushroom mix into a bowl and set aside.

Add another 2 T butter to the pan, and when it’s melted and bubbly, add the shallots. Cook the shallots until they’re translucent and starting to brown a bit.

Add the rice to the pan with the shallots. Let it cook for a minute or two, stirring, until the rice is toasty (about 2 minutes). Add the wine and another 1/2 t salt, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Let the wine simmer into the rice until it’s absorbed.

Now comes the part where weaker souls despair. You need to add the simmering stock about a ladle or two at a time, letting the rice absorb it completely before adding more. You may have heard that you need to stir the risotto endlessly for the ENTIRE time that it cooks, but I don’t have time for that, so I stir it a little at the beginning and kind of leave it to cook down a bit, checking on it from time to time while I clean up the kitchen and have a glass of that wine I opened. When the stock gets to the more absorbed end, I stir it a bit until it’s all absorbed. I have tried the Eternity of Stirring Method, but I honestly can’t tell much of a difference between the final products, which means I’m definitely sticking with the easier way.

Repeat the adding and stirring, making sure the stock is absorbed before you add more, until you’re down to 1/2 C stock (or about a ladleful). It took me about 4 additions and about 30 minutes. Try the rice: if it is done (not mushy, but not crunchy, just kind of al dente), then you’re almost there. If it’s not done yet, add the stock, and if it’s still not done when the stock is gone, you can add water until the rice is done.

At this point, stir the mushrooms back in and squeeze the lemon half into the pan. You can zest the lemon if you want it brighter (or if you’re vegan and are skipping the cheese). Stir it together and let it simmer for a minute or so (slightly longer if you’re not adding the cheese, just to get it slightly creamier).

Adjust for seasoning (I left you an extra teaspoon just in case your stock isn’t salty) and stir in the parmesan. Serve with chives and parmesan sprinkled on top.

This pairs best with the wine you used to cook it in (if there’s any left!). And now that you know how delicious, decadent, elegant, AND easy this is, you can make it whenever you’d like, and impress the pants off of the people who still think it’s Advanced Cooking. Bon appétit!

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