Food for the Soul

Whenever I tell people who are into food or have any cooking experience that risotto is my favorite dish, they’re impressed. And while I’m never one to turn down praise (as my brother will surely attest), I feel like I need to come clean. Risotto really isn’t hard. I think what intimidates people about risotto is that it’s a pretty high maintenance dish, but anyone who’s willing to stir for a long time can make an excellent risotto. Throw together a great cooking playlist, pour a glass of wine, let the smell of garlic and butter fill your kitchen, and you can impress people and make them think you’re a gourmet chef. Plus once you learn the base recipe and general cooking technique for risotto you can make it a million different ways. Risotto is basically a blank, cheesy, buttery, carb loaded canvas, and what could be better than that?

I don’t remember the first time I made risotto, but I know it was in Copenhagen. Thinking about my ikea furnished and at times ill equipped kitchen in Copenhagen always puts the biggest smile on my face. The six months I spent studying abroad were full of travel, new experiences, amazing restaurants, and crazy stories. Amongst all that amazing chaos, what I’ll always remember the most are the evenings spent singing along to 90s pop music, cooking to varying degrees of success, and arguing about who was going to unclog the sink with the people who became my family within a few months’ time. And so many of those evenings involved risotto.

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A basic risotto is arborio rice toasted in butter and olive oil with shallot and garlic, cooked in wine and a stock (usually a dry white and chicken or veggie stock for the most basic risotto) by adding cooking liquid 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the rice is cooked al dente. That’s mixed with more butter, parmesan, and seasoned with salt and pepper and usually has some fresh parsley or other herbs thrown in to freshen it up. Make a risotto just like that and you’ve got a fantastic side dish! To step it up to an entree, pick a protein and veggie and mix those it. Once you’ve mastered that, be creative! Use rosé (pictured above) or red, switch up your stock, change up the herbs, experiment with all kinds of seafoods, meats, veggies, seeds, and garnishes, try other cooking liquids, pick a flavor profile and roll with it, you can literally do anything. And that’s why I love risotto so much.

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Does anyone ever have a Monday that really feels like a Monday? I had one of those today. My parents were in town this weekend which put me in kind of a vacation mindset from all the nice restaurants and non stop activity. It was great, but a bigger transition back into the week than most weekends. So I felt like I needed to have a really relaxing evening full of good food. I thought about a couple of recipes that I’ve had in my mental queue lately, but I really didn’t want to follow a recipe tonight. Making a tried and true recipe is one of the most soothing, relaxing, and even therapeutic things for me. I can forget about everything that happened in my day and everything I have to do the next day and just be alone with the ingredients. I still wanted to be creative and try something new, so risotto seemed the obvious choice.

The only recipe I’ve ever ordered twice from Hello Fresh was a truffle mushroom risotto with prosciutto wrapped chicken.

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It’s fantastic, and I wanted it tonight but I also wanted to create a new recipe. I basically remixed the recipe to have the same flavor profile and many of the same ingredients in a fun new way. It’s been awhile since I made a red wine risotto, but I wanted red wine with dinner. Living alone I’ve found that I can only make it through a bottle of wine so quickly. So I knew if I bought white to cook with and red to drink, I’d end up throwing out half or most of one of the two bottles. To avoid that, I cooked the risotto in red wine and chicken stock. I added mushrooms, chicken, and crisped and crumbled prosciutto that I made separately in my cast iron. Finally, I garnished the dish with parsley, thyme, and truffle oil. This dish definitely helped manage the Monday blues; plus the winter flavors of the mushrooms, thyme, and red wine helped me deal with the ~cold~ weather we’ve been having in Southern California lately.

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Risotto has become my best dish over the past couple of years and it’s because there’s genuinely nothing I enjoy cooking more. It’s time consuming, yes. But it’s fun, it’s relaxing, and it’s delicious. Lately I’ve found multiple people asking me for risotto advice, so if you have any questions or are looking for a recipe, I’ve got you covered!

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