Monday, March 16, 2009

Garbage Risotto

When we have reached a mental block on what to eat, and we have a bunch of odds and ends in the fridge, that's when my husband suggests risotto. It's such a nice one dish meal, vegetarian or not, or a side dish to a small serving of meat, summer or winter. I first made risotto with my friend Ben, years ago. We followed the instructions perfectly, stirring constantly for an hour, taking turns when one's arms were too tired to do any more. It got rave reviews at dinner that night, so I've continued making it, but have not looked at a recipe in years. My one word of recommendation is that, although it is simple to make, you really need three hands, and four is even better. It gets tiring to stir that much, and unless you have everything within reach, there will be times when you need a runner to grab something.

I call this garbage risotto because we throw everything and anything into it. We usually use frozen chicken or beef stock, but you could do veggie stock or fish, or anything else. We go through the fridge, grabbing the half onions, leftover cooked vegetables from dinners past, bits of steak or chop remains, lonely single beets or carrots. If you can imagine eating it and it's not moldy, it's fair game for this risotto.

Get whatever stock you are using to a simmer and then reduce heat so that it stays hot but doesn't reduce too much. I usually heat up whatever stock was frozen and if there is leftover after making the risotto, bring it back to a boil and refreeze. I am a non-measurer, which works well for me, but doesn't translate into recipes that well. I estimate that I use around 5 cups of stock.

Here comes the time for decisions. Pick A or B.

A) If you are doing a simple risotto (just mushrooms or meat or onions or other few ingredients), sauté them now in olive oil in a large, heavy duty pan (I use a Dutch oven). Salt and pepper.

B) If you are doing lots of extras, also sauté them in the pan. However, once they are nicely fragrant and getting soft, season with salt and pepper and remove them to a bowl and add more olive oil to the pan.

Add 1 cup arborio rice to the heated oil (and, if you chose A, whatever else is in the pan) and stir constantly until starting to brown, about one minute.

Now comes the hard work. Start adding liquid, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid is mostly gone. Add another 1/2 cup. Do this until the rice no longer absorbs the liquid, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

Now, I usually add 1/2 to 1 cup wine and stir until absorbed. Whether it's white or red is up to you. I also usually add a liberal splash of tamari for flavor.

If you went with choice B, add those veggies, etc. now.

Remove from heat. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/2 to 1 cup grated parmesan. Eat.

Last night I made a spring onion, garlic, eggplant, leftover boiled beet, mushroom, white wine conglomeration. It finally felt like spring.

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