Pictured above: Evan J’s first successful Risotto!
For years, I’ve been watching various food shows: Anything on Food Network, Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, Hell’s Kitchen, etc.
Giada, the Italian Goddess, is very knowledgeable about most facets of Italian cooking. I don’t understand how she can cook the most fattening, scrumptious food, and still be a supermodel. She must have great jeans (pun intended). That will be a blog for another day… It appears that she makes several different types of Risotto to serve as a main course. I don’t purport to be an expert on Risotto. But since I just made one, and my wife raved about it, I can share my 2 cents.
Risotto is not a rice; it’s a style of cooking. It’s usually a featured entree at many Italian Restaurants. They can be Vegetarian, or made with Meat or Seafood. There is an argument in the culinary community insisting that it is never to be a side dish or a garnish. Personally, I cannot comment on that because I’m not involved in those heated battles amongst the “chefs.” I am a Chef “wanna be.” My wife thinks that I should try out for a cooking reality show, but I’m apprehensive and not sure how I would handle neither the abuse, nor the competition. I’ve worked for some seriously arrogant and disturbed chefs in my food service days and I’m very aware of the egocentric nature that accompanies the culinary industry. I’ve also worked with some great chefs too… The one’s that put love into their food and treat people well usually inspire the masses.
In any case, Arborio Rice is most frequently used, and there are so many variations which go way beyond the scope of this blog… I purchased a Risotto book from Costco a few months ago out of pure curiosity combined with many hours of Food TV (mentioned earlier). I saw Giada make a Mushroom Risotto a while back… If you notice, I really enjoy abusing ellipsis… Mario Batalli has made several Risotto permutations as well and then he garnished it with a load of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (the expensive stuff). Many of the chefs on Top Chef have made Risottos too. I guess the inspiration for this impromptu blog came from several episodes of Hell’s Kitchen combined with my first successful Risotto–Am I bragging? Yes! As far as Hell’s Kitchen is concerned, a Risotto dish is made practically every week, and they seem to execute it in 5 minutes or less. Naturally, that is the power of television. After just cooking my first Chicken, Mushroom, and Cashew Risotto, I realized that there was more to it–about 30 minutes more. Gordon Ramsey flipped out several weeks back because someone in the kitchen overcooked the rice. The Risottos just kept on coming back and Gordon was running out of walls to use as a target for the rejected dishes: “They’re a pile of mush… They’re under-seasoned… THEY’RE RAW…” Duck or else you’ll get hit with the saute pan. Apparently, they had to parboil or partially cook the Arborio Rice because it really does take a solid 20 minutes to absorb the liquid to become edible. It has to be Al Dente, but not too hard; it cannot have a mushy consistency either. No wonder those entrees just kept on coming back. Plus, one must keep stirring it and readjust the seasoning by tasting it. Polenta and roux’s can also become nightmarish if not constantly stirred. In short, the dish requires time, patience, love, and several fresh ingredients.
I spent about 30 minutes perusing the Risotto book, and I decided that I was going to combine 2 different Risottos and put them together. I understood the basics: Use Butter! Ok, there’s more to it. Use Butter and Olive oil, saute a diced onion, add the RAW Arborio Rice, then add the stock and stir until it’s done. Before serving, season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the expensive cheese at the end… I made a Chicken, Mushroom, and Cashew Risotto, but added a few of my own things. Generally speaking, I usually follow 95% of a recipe, but always find something else to add out of instinct, not rebellion. For example, I added some freshly diced Red Pepper, Smart Balance (instead of Butter–please forgive me), seasoned RAW Chicken with Adobo, a Pear Infused White Wine instead of a dry version, a few drops of truffle oil near the end, Crimini and regular Mushrooms, toasted Pine Nuts, Asiago, and a grated cheese mixture. It worked! Most recipes are a basic guide–a framework/shell. My wife is still drooling over the leftovers and I’m glad that I had some time today to unleash the mystery of Risotto. My next Risotto will either consist of Lemon and Rosemary, an Artichoke and Roasted Garlic variation, or a seafood inspired version.
I always ask people to send thoughts, reactions, and recipes to my blog. The bottom line is this: I am connected and will feed friends and colleagues for many years. PLEASE leave a reaction or email me with YOUR ideas.
Again, I don’t have a sign off and still working on it. I’ll gladly accept suggestions for that as well. Peace and good eats… Evan J. wanna be Gourmet!