by Gabriel Hall
“Rome wasn’t built in a day” or so everyone says. There’s a lot of truth in that saying when it comes to cooking. Some dishes need a lot of attention to detail. Attention to detail means a lot of time spent standing over the stove, meticulously bringing things to the right temperature, the right consistency and texture; coaxing it into a perfect final product.
Roasting and braising are prime examples of applying time and care in cooking. To make something soft and succulent you need to apply heat over a long period of time to break down those connective tissues, to draw out and infuse flavours, and to create textures that you’d want in your mouth.
Baking is another example of taking your time to carefully measure out your ingredients. The difference between putting 4 tablespoons and 4 teaspoons of baked soda to make alkaline noodles can change a slightly chewy, well textured noodle into a horrid lumpy mess.
Making risotto is a process that embodies the care and attention needed to produce amazing food. A lot of places and a lot of recipes claim to serve something risotto-like made with butter, cream and cheese. Stop, get up, and walk out immediately if the waiter even hints at the word cream.
The creaminess of the dish comes from the butter and rice starch combining in the liquid to form a beautiful creamy texture. To achieve this texture naturally you need to stand at the stove and constantly stir, add a little bit of broth, stir some more, add some more broth and repeat over and over for about twenty minutes. That’s almost half an hour, not moving, in front of a hot pot, stirring and pouring. There are no short cuts, there are no substitutes. There is only hard work and love.
If a restaurant can’t be bothered put the kitchen donkey at a pot to do a single, simple thing a trained monkey with an IQ of 5 could do, why should you be bothered to go out and spend $18.99 on a dish made without care or love? Take the time and love your food.
LVG’s Mushroom Risotto
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups mushroom rehydration water
- 1 cup white wine
- 75-100g dehydrated mushrooms, any will do, a mixture is best
- 3 shallots
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Block of Romano cheese
- Sea salt
- Unsalted butter
- Olive oil
Soak a handful of dried mushrooms overnight in a pot of room temperature water to rehydrate them. Strain and set aside the mushrooms and remove any particulates. Save the liquid the mushrooms were rehydrated in as it has great flavours which can reinforce the stock and create a depth of flavours in the rice. You can use fresh mushrooms without any major change to the taste of the dish.
Combine 3 parts chicken stock with 2 parts mushroom water with 1 part white wine and give it a quick boil to burn off some of the alcohol. The amount of mixture you will actually use will vary, but a general ratio is 2 cups of Arborio rice for 5-6 cups of broth. If you are using fresh mushrooms, the ratio is 5 cups of broth for 1 cup of wine.
Complete your prep: brunoise the shallots, chop the mushrooms and mince the garlic.
Start by heating a mixture of olive oil and butter in a pan. Add the rice into the pan and stir to ensure the oils are incorporated into the grains of rice. Add the garlic, shallots and chopped mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms purge their liquids.
Ensure the kernels have started to brown. This will help bring out the natural flavour of the rice itself and infuse them with the mushroom, stock and wine flavours to create a complex flavour profile. Once the rice has started to brown add the stock mixture one cup at a time and stir constantly until the stock has been absorbed into the rice. Stirring as it cooks will help release the starches and create that rich creaminess without resorting to adding cream or a lot of cheese. Repeat adding the stock one cup at a time until the rice is mostly cooked. Risotto should be slightly crispy in the center, not mushy, with each individual kernel of rice distinguishable from the next connected by a creamy broth. Season to taste.
Grate in your desired amount of cheese (I like a lot) and plate by pouring some in the middle of the plate and shaking it gently in order to distribute it evenly. The risotto should flow outward evenly when shaken. Having it run all over the plate means there’s still too much broth. Having it sit there in a clump means that there isn’t enough broth. Adjust accordingly.
Crack a little pepper, grate some more cheese on top, garnish with vegetables or meat and serve immediately.
There are many variations of risotto. You can add meat, use pork or fish broths, use different vegetables, or even different types of rice to create the flavours that you like. I did one with leftover bacon dashi which gave the rice a subtle smoky bacon flavour. Experiment with a combination to find the one that suits your style and tastes.