Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mushroom Risotto (and Baked Tilapia)

Risotto (which Giada pronounces REE-SOt-toe, not riz-zodo) is the Italian way of making rice. They use arborio rice, which is a super starchy rice which is cooked using a special technique so the result is a super creamy, but not mushy, rice dish.

I'm excited because this is #10 on my New Year's Resolution list! It's the first dish I get to cross off.

My favorite kind of risotto is mushroom risotto. It's hearty, rustic, and delicious. It can be made to be super delicate and dainty as well, but I prefer the rustic kind.

Ingredients [serves 4]:
0.5 oz package of dried porcini mushrooms (about a 1/2 cup)
half a package of baby portabella mushrooms (8 oz. package)
1 portabella mushroom (I could only find sliced at my grocery store so I used half a 6 oz package)
1 sprig of thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (preferably freshly ground)
1/4 large sweet onion
1 tbsp olive oil + 1-1/2 tbsp butter (for the mushrooms) --- 1 tbsp olive oil + 1/2 tbsp butter (for the rice)
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup chicken stock + 4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want to make this a vegetarian risotto)
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated sharp Italian cheese (asiago, parmesan, or pecorino are all great)
To prepare the dried porcinis, I put them in a sauce pan with 1/2 cup of chicken stock until they were hydrated and soft. To speed up the process, put them on the stove top over low heat and simmer for about ten minutes. Once they're soft, pull them out of the stock and roughly chop.

I chopped the portabella and baby portabella mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. I didn't try v. hard to make the pieces uniform at all. Like I said, I like it to be rustic!

I minced the garlic. Just a note about my garlic. Notice the green sprouts poking out of the tops? My dad, who grew up on a farm and knows a lot about produce, says that happens when the garlic has been exposed to cold temperatures. So that means that sprouting garlic will be common in the winter time. [Experiment: If you put your garlic in the fridge and then take it out, it'll quickly sprout in a day or two]. The sprouts are fine to use as long as they are still plump and moist (they taste like garlic, fancy that!) but if they're starting to dry out, they can taste bitter. If the sprouts bother you, you can pull them out. Just give it a wiggle and then a tug and you'll be able to pull it right out.
I diced the onion, but again, I wasn't too concerned about fineness or uniformity.
Once I got my mise en place ready (mise en place is French for "put in place" and refers to the organizing and preparing of the ingredients and is often used as a noun) I got the rest of the stock (4 cups) warming on the stove (which I just added to the stock I used to hydrate the porcini). Keep it simmering on low heat. If the heat is too high, the liquid will get super concentrated and reduce and you'll end up needing more stock.
I also got a big pot warming and added in oil and butter for the mushrooms. Once the butter melted, I added in the mushrooms, tossed them to coat in the fat, then added in the thyme and black pepper. I left the thyme sprig whole (and fished it out later). Thyme goes so well with mushrooms. I think they both have that woody, rustic, forest-y flavor so they complement each other nicely.
When the mushrooms were browned and cooked through, I removed them from the pot, put them in a bowl, and set them aside (and discarded the thyme sprig).
I measured out one cup of rice and set it aside.
Then, I added more oil and butter to the pot and added the onions. Once the onions are translucent I added the rice and toasted it.
The goal of toasting the rice is to get each grain coated in fat and to get each grain to absorb a little fat so that the end result isn't a sticky, porridge-y mess. You want to be able to distinguish each individual grain when you serve your risotto.

Once the rice started to look slightly translucent, I knew it was ready. I added in one ladle (about 1/2 cup) of stock. Then I continually stirred the rice for a few minutes until most of the liquid had been absorbed by the rice. Then I repeated the same steps over and over and over until all of the stock had been used up. You never want there to be so little liquid in the pot so that the rice on the bottom starts to brown. You also never want to add too much liquid at once. You're trying to slowly coax the starch out of the rice to make the dish creamy. Too much liquid at once will tend to make the rice more like a gummy pilaf.
1. add half cup of stock
2. stir, stir, stir
3. once liquid is absorbed, add more stock
Once I'd used up all of the stock, I grabbed a grain of rice to taste it. If it's still crunchy, then you'll need to add more stock but my rice was slightly al dente (cooked but still firm) so I knew I was ready for the finishing touches. I added in the mushrooms that I'd set aside before, 1/4 cup of milk (to make it just a little creamier), and the grated cheese. I stirred v. carefully to combine and turned off the heat.






The risotto should look like this:
The individual grains are distinguishable but it looks creamy and delicious. If it looks like rice pilaf - dry and fluffy rice - then you probably didn't use enough stock and/or cooked off too much of the liquid. If it looks soupy and liquidy, then maybe you used too much stock and/or you didn't cook off enough liquid. The real test of the texture is to serve the risotto on a flat plate. It should spread out a little but no liquid should seep out.

I served my risotto with baked tilapia and the salad from yesterday's post. To make the tilapia, I just placed a few filets on a baking sheet lined with foil, coated the fish in oil, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. I put it in my oven's broiler set at the highest temperature for 6 minutes until the edges were browned. Then I shut off my oven and left the filets in there for 2 more minutes. I love this cooking technique for tilapia filets. Since you're not flipping the fish, the bottom sort of steams itself and stays really moist. But since it's in the broiler, you get some color on the fish so it looks really nice. Plus, it's healthier than frying them.
serve with a lemon slice

 Buon appetito!

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