risotto, an old favorite

Risotto was one of the first “real” dishes I learned when I began teaching myself to cook (an ongoing process, clearly.) At the time I was excited that it actually worked, and thought it looked quite impressive for such an amateur .

Since then I have made many a risotto – not all have been perfect, but I still get a little sense of accomplishment when it’s completed. I chopped, I stirred,  I ladled, I seasoned, I stirred some more – and there it is: a creamy, oozy bowl of starchy vegetable-flavored goodness.

What I like about a risotto is that it is easily adaptable to different vegetables and thus, seasons.  And that it sounds more difficult to make than it actually is.

The risotto I made yesterday incorporated dried porcini mushrooms, which I  had never cooked with before. They were easy to prepare: just pour boiling water over desired amount of mushrooms and let stand covered for 5-10 minutes. I poured about 1.5 liters of water over my mushrooms in order to make a broth/stock to stir into my rice instead of chicken or vegetable stock.

Mushroom and Spinach Risotto (serves 2 main-sized portions)
– Small knob of butter
– 1 cup mushrooms chopped (I used my revived porcini and some white button)
– 2 tablespoons of olive oil
– 1 large yellow onion, diced
– 2 (I used 3) cloves of garlic, chopped
– 4 sprigs of thyme, picked
– 1 cup risotto rice like arborio. (I only had brown rice in the house, which works but requires double the stirring time.)
– 1/2 cup dry white wine
– 1.5 liters mushroom/chicken/vegetable/beef stock, more as needed
– 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
– 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, more to serve  (yesterday I only used 1/4 a cup and added a tablespoon of cream cheese because I was worried about the brown rice being too sticky. The cream cheese made everything a little silkier.)

1. Bring stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan.
2. Saute mushrooms in butter with half of the thyme in a large pan for 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
3. In the same pan, at a medium-high heat warm olive oil and saute onion and garlic for about 3 minutes.
4.  Add dry rice to the pan, stir to coat the rice grains in olive oil mixture. Cook for 1 minute.
5. Pour in white wine and let alcohol boil off.
6. When the pan is beginning to look a little dry, add a ladleful of the stock and stir. Bring the heat down to a simmer.
7. Continue adding more stock by the ladleful as the liquid decreases, stirring to incorporate. (I don’t feel the need to be an obsessive stirrer, but I give it a fair amount of attention, just to make sure all the rice grains are getting enough liquid and heat.)
8. Continue the ladling/stirring business for about 20 minutes or until al dente. (Unfortunately the brown rice took about 45 minutes for similar results.)
9. Add mushrooms, chopped spinach and the rest of the thyme. Cook for 5 minutes, adding more liquid if needed.
10. Stir in cheese and serve with more grated cheese on top.

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