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Monday, February 1, 2010

Stir Your Way Into a Better Mood: Risotto 101

Have you ever had one of those days that felt like THE WORST day of your life? One of those "I'll never get through this without a total nervous breakdown and if I do it will be a miracle and I might require a bottle of wine/vodka/tequila and I definitely cannot cook dinner tonight and will be eating beefaroni out of a can if necessary." Yes, we've all had them, we all might have one this week and we'll all DEFINITELY have one in the near future.

I had one last week. A bad one. A craptastic day at work mixed with end of the month budget situations added to just enough stress to make me realize I needed an extremely high calorie count to even begin to cope. I was at the shop for a few hours, and in the last hour, J (who was there working on something else) and I split several Young's Double Chocolate Stout's with our friends/my colleagues. We literally couldn't decide what to eat, and the slight beer/chocolate buzz didn't help. A quick mental check of the budget and a meal at home was deemed the event. We stopped at the market on the way home--the good one, with the freshest produce (even in the winter, mostly local if possible) and some fabulous gourmet niceties. I wanted to spend zero time and zero money, and we were looking in the "prepared by the fancy Garden Center chef-type" case. And for some reason, it hit me. If I were a cartoon character, a lightbulb would have literally popped on over my stress-case head. Risotto. Now, I'm ALMOST positive I've never actually made Risotto. My husband swears I've made it once before, but in that way that I'm almost always certain he's thinking of someone else/some other dish/some movie, I think he's wrong. At the very least, I don't remember ever making risotto. I've seen it done on TV countless times, and always enjoy eating it. But almost every chef (aside from Rachael Ray, who says everything can be done in 30 minutes) says it is time consuming and stressful. Yet for some reason, this was the dish I KNEW I would be making on the stressiest of stressful days. A glance at the gorgeous Chorizo in the market and the knowledge of the other ingredients in my house convinced me I would BS a recipe from thin air--red wine and chorizo risotto with peas. Done.

**This was the best of all the photos we took. We're getting there, and appreciate your braveness and imagination.**

Now, um, to figure it out. I knew the drill. Heat a quart of stock on the stove. Saute onions and garlic in oil (or butter) and add Arborio Rice. Toast in the fatty garlic/onion mixture. Deglaze. Add stock one ladle full at a time, stirring constantly as the risotto comes together and gets creamy and delish. Finish with butter and cheese. Serve immediately. Armed with that knowledge, I literally pulled this out of my insanely perturbed with my life behind. It was FREAKING delicious. It was so delicious that I ate the leftovers, cold, out of the fridge for the next few days. It was like mac and cheese only slightly more fancy, and the depth of flavor was insane. But here is the most important part. It calmed me down. I SWEAR! I'm not making it up. Perhaps it was the constant attention to the cooking process that helped--I really didn't want to think about the crappy day, because I was more into thinking about the crazy thought I had about cooking something like this for the first time with a slight buzz and my head somewhere else. By the time we sat down to dinner, I was in a remarkably better mood, and could breathe again.

Risotto is definitely not for the low-cal set. I probably could have gotten away with using less or no butter to finish the dish, but it added such a gorgeous finish. I can't wait to try different kinds, for special occasions, and spice it up with whatever meat/cheese/wine/stock I have around. It's not an every day kind of meal, but it has a bad reputation for being so intimidating. It really wasn't that difficult, and I have faith that as long as you have the patience to sit in the kitchen for 20-30 minutes, you're all good in the hood.

Red Wine and Chorizo Risotto with Peas

1 C diced (large dice) spanish (hard) chorizo
1/2 T olive oil
1 small yellow onion (or 1/2 a large onion), finely minced
3 cloves garlic, grated or minced
2 C Arborio rice
2 C dry red wine (I used a Rioja--it was open) :)
4 C chicken stock, warmed on the stove
2 T butter, diced
1 C frozen (or fresh) peas
1/4 C chopped parsley
1/4 C grated Manchego cheese (you could also use Pecorino Romano)

Warm stock in saucepan on stove. Bring to a simmer and keep warm.
Heat a large saute pan on medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook out until the meat is crispy and the fat is rendered. 
Remove chorizo with a slotted spoon. (If there is TOO much fat in the pan, drain a tiny bit.) 
Add the onion and olive oil and cook 3-4 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
Add the garlic, cook an additional 1 minute.
Add the rice. Stir for about 3-4 minutes, toasting the rice.
Add the wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. 
Cook out the wine for 2-3 minutes.
Lower the heat to low.
Begin adding stock, one ladle at a time (two if it's a smaller ladle) and stir constantly with a wooden spoon.
You're basically stirring the starches out of the rice, and you want to stir (not meanly) until the liquid is absorbed.
Repeat until all the stock has been used, and the rice is JUST al dente. (Keep testing it, starting when you have just a few ladles of stock left in the pot.)
When the rice is done, finish with the peas (the heat from the risotto will heat them through) the butter, and the cheese.
Fold everything in together, and serve immediately.

You could serve with a spinach salad, but let's be real. With the day I had that day, I heaped a GIANT MESS of it into large bowls, and J and I sat down in front of bad television, and gorged.
And then promptly entered into food comas while watching '24.'

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad to know that "that special market" has the chorizo I've been looking for. Yeah! It saves me from driving like a crazy woman to Chicago.