Mushroom risotto: An easy, inexpensive, and thoroughly impressive gourmet meal.

My parents came over for dinner tonight, and I made these beautiful roasted vegetables, which reminded me about the risotto that we ate the last time I made the roasted veggies, a few days before Christmas. Mark and Jess, Nick’s sister and brother-in-law, were here visiting from Winnipeg, and he’s gluten-free. They brought their adorable little baby with them, and then I felt a bit like an asshole afterward because I had my camera out the whole evening and only took pictures of the food.

The thing I like most about risotto is that it’s upscale comfort food. It seems like a pain to make because you have to monitor it and keep it moving in the pan, but that’s not so bad. Though it might not be the best thing to make at a dinner party, if you’ve just got a few people over and it’s casual no one will mind you running off for a half-hour, and people will always join you in the kitchen if they think you’ve been away too long. Often, they will anticipate your needs and open a bottle of wine, and you’ll get to catch up in the quiet of the kitchen. Risotto is not as antisocial as you might think.

For the following recipe, you can use any kind of mushrooms you like. If wild mushrooms are available in your market, feel free to grab an assortment and play around. If all you’ve got are plain white mushrooms, that’s just fine too, and it will be lovely and you’ll be amazed at what mushrooms can do. I’m always amazed at what mushrooms can do.

Mushroom risotto

(Serves about four as a small main course. This is an easy one to multiply or divide, however.)

  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock, brought to a boil and kept warm on the stove
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup raw Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled, cooked bacon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a heavy-bottomed pan, melt the first two tablespoons of butter. Add onions and garlic, and cook for two to three minutes, until onions are translucent. Add rice to pan, stirring for about a minute, or until rice grains turn opaque.

Pour in wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to ensure nothing has stuck. Cook until wine has been completely absorbed.

Add one cup of the warm chicken stock, stirring frequently until liquid is mostly absorbed. Repeat with an additional cup of stock.

On your third addition of stock, pour the remaining liquid into the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is absorbed. When you’ve still got just a bit of liquid in the pan, add your mushrooms. Test your rice for tenderness – if it is al denté, you’re awesome and good work. If it isn’t, it’s probably the rice’s fault, so just pour in a little bit more stock, as needed. Keep in mind that the mushrooms are going to sweat and release their own moisture into the mix.

When rice is ready, stir in bacon or nuts, if using, rosemary, nutmeg, butter, and Parmesan. Adjust your seasonings, to taste.

This dish smells amazing, like autumn or a sunny day in winter, and it tastes woodsy and wholesome, like a blanket you eat. It changed Nick’s whole opinion about risotto, which previously wasn’t very high. And it just feels good to eat. No stress, and if you’ve got people over you haven’t seen in awhile, you can talk with your mouth full, because there isn’t a lot of chewing required.

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