Today, I made risotto. Risotto has always been one of those sticking points in my culinary repertoire, the thing that I have had a mental block against due to perceived difficulty and fussiness. Also, I am generally known to be rice-challenged.
Yes, that’s right. I can’t cook rice so that it is the appropriate texture. It is either tooth-crackingly underdone or a pile of mush, and it has gone down both roads using equal amounts of water, the same amount of time, and the same pot. I am absolutely certain that this curse has befallen me because I masterminded a shell game of housewares that resulted in my husband’s much-beloved but undeniably ugly and unitasking microwave rice cooker being passed on to his cousin a few years back.
My fallback plan has become the packets of frozen microwavable organic brown nice from Trader Joe’s, and they have provided a serviceable base to pile stir frys on and a worthy companion to chicken, pork, and other proteins. I bought a container of aborio rice for a slow-cooker risotto recipe recently, and decided to bite the bullet and try the basic risotto recipe on the side of the container.
As I cooked the shallots in the butter and olive oil, I started to get a little panicked about timing. I was cooking salmon on the stovetop as well, and wanted to incorporate a green vegetable in there somewhere. I got the chicken stock and the cup of rice in place, knowing that once the rice hit the pan there was no turning back. I added the rice and cooked for a few minutes, then one cup of stock. I stirred gently in a figure eight pattern as I had been instructed, trying to coax the grains into absorbing the stock.
At a certain point, I had to use my stirring hand to get the salmon going. I put the silicone spatula down, knowing that I was most likely dooming my risotto to failure by leaving it for more than a second. But you know what? It was actually OK. I started the salmon in a separate pan, and returned to the risotto, stirring and adding more stock and adjusting the heat when it felt like it needed it. The recipe had no time on it, so I went with what seemed to make sense, tweaking things as I went along.
When the salmon was just about done, I tasted the risotto and was pleased with the creamy texture and the still-intact, but not too hard, grains. I threw caution to the wind and added a handful of parmesan cheese and some frozen peas with a grind of fresh pepper. A minute later, the peas were perfect and the risotto was served, on time, with the salmon.
Lesson learned. I let some things get built up in my mind to be so precious and difficult; but when I actually get my hands into it, it’s easier than I thought.
So, Fabulous Thing #83: Risotto, conquered.