Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cooking as meditation

I've always cooked to relax, which means when I'm under a lot of stress I tend to gain weight.  But thanks to some cholecystic issues, I've been on a virtually fat-free diet for a couple of months.  I've lost six pounds and I'm now officially classed as "underweight."  This situation has done nothing to help my stress levels.  So to kill two birds with one stone, I decided to make risotto.

My friend, Kurt, taught me to make risotto.  Well, not so much taught me as I've watched "the Maestro" make it a dozen times.  Risotto is a basic rice recipe that you can vary with the addition of different ingredients. Last week "baby bella" (aka crimini) mushrooms were on sale at Winn-Dixie and they beckoned to be made into risotto.  The recipe is relatively low-fat because you can adjust the amount of oil and parmesan cheese.  And risotto is meditative in that it requires constant stirring for about 20 minutes.  Yes, there are "oven baked" varieties on FoodGawker but I wanted to be taken away from my grading, class prep and research for a few minutes.  So without further ado, this is my recipe for


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 finely diced onion
1 garlic clove
1 cup finely diced mushrooms (I sliced the crimini mushrooms horizontally, then diced them for a nice even texture)
2 tablespoons sherry
1 cup uncooked arborio rice (also known as "risotto rice" this is a round kernel, very different from long grain)
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water (plus more if necessary)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Parsley for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute for three minutes.  Add the mushrooms and continue to saute 4-5 minutes. Do not brown.  Add the sherry to deglaze the pan.  Then stir in the rice.

Add about one cup of broth and begin stirring, still over medium heat.  When the broth has been absorbed, add another 1/2 cup broth.  Continue stirring.  Don't walk away or the rice will start sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Each time the liquid has been absorbed, add another 1/2 cup of broth.  When you're out of broth, add the water 1/2 cup at a time.  The standard cooking time is about 20 minutes, but test the rice to see if it is tender with just a little bit of chewiness to it.  When it's reached this texture, remove the pan from the heat and add the parmesan cheese.  Stir it in quickly because it will start to melt in the hot risotto.  The resulting mixture should be creamy.  Serve topped with parsley and salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 3-4.

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