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How to make it

  • I have a confession to make. The very first time I made risotto (which was 10 years ago now) it took about 2 hours. What’s funny is that a basic risotto should be a quick and easy 20 minutes from start to finish. What happened? Looking back now I see that my problem was fear – fear that I would burn the rice, fear that I would screw up the whole dish. So instead I stood in front of the stove and stirred and stirred my little arm off for 2 hours straight. I had the heat on low! It took forever and ever for the liquid to absorb into the rice. The real key to a quick (and good) risotto is not being afraid to crank the heat. Crank it all the way up, as high as it will go. But whatever you do: don’t step away from the stove! You have to keep stirring, stirring, stirring – but only for 20 minutes. Not 2 hours.
  • I used mushroom broth for this risotto, which was absolutely delicious, but you can substitute vegetable or chicken broth. If you cook risotto a lot, you’ll get the hang of checking out the way the individual rice grains look as they are cooking: when you first stir them around in the fat, they become translucent with a chalky white core. As they continue to cook, they become less and less translucent, until they are bone white through-and-through. As you get a hang for it, you can actually use the look-see method to test if the rice is done, rather than burning the hell out of your mouth tasting the rice every 2 seconds towards the end of cooking. When you finally do taste, you want the rice to be not-to-soft, and not-too-hard – al dente, that is. If you’ve run out of liquid before the rice is sufficiently tender, just add water a ladleful at a time. And if you can’t find oyster mushrooms, this would be equally as good with all button mushrooms. One last tip: if you have a pot with rounded bottom (i.e., a saucier), it makes getting into the corners of the pan easier (uh, because there are no corners) so the rice doesn’t stick and burn.
  • Oh, and my second confession of the night: I sauteed some of the mushrooms in bacon fat. Yeah, that’s right.

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