Friday, November 13, 2009

Chef Jeff: Mushroom Risotto

The risotto is one of my favorite dishes. My fave is a squid ink risotto from a place that I can't quite recall right now. Risotto is a traditional Italian rice dish. It's different than regular rice in that it uses short-grain round rice as opposed to the usual long-grained rice. The most common variety used is Arborio, though the Italians probably prefer some other varieties (like Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano). I'm not too familiar with different rice varieties at the moment. The choice is important though as each variety has its own absorption rate and will vary the cooking method and time.

This dish is my first big disaster. I used the recipe I found in Chatelaine magazine in the Nov 09 issue. There's also a copy of the recipe on the Chatelaine website: Classic risotto. I went with the mushroom variation.

There isn't that much prep required for risotto, it was just the onions and some of the mushrooms for the flavor.

This is (what I feel) is a technical dish. I'm not really a chef, so what the hell do I know. From what I've learned, the risotto is all about your cooking technique. It's not complex. It's just arduous and slow. You prepare the chicken stock by heating (to a boil, then let it simmer). The recipe I used added some mushrooms to give it more mushroomy flavor.

In a pan, I toss in butter, chopped onions with some olive oil. Once they are soft, the rice is ready to rock. The rice goes in and then while stirring, slowly add in white wine.
Now comes the super technical part, also the most tedious. Ladle in the soup stock that you have prepared, just enough to cover the rice, and then keep stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed. Keep doing this until all of the stock is gone.
(This is where I screwed up, and had to repair. I ran out of stock before the risotto was cooked to my liking. I had to add more stock, but the recipe could be off. You could either use less rice or more stock to compensate)
Stir... Stir..... Stirrrrr. Constantly. In order for the rice to cook evenly, the mixture needs to be stirred so that it absorbs the moisture throughout at the same rate and infuse the soup stock into each grain.
Once the rice is ready, you can add some more butter, and chives, but I didn't bother.

Sidetrack notes:
My risotto was fine up to this point, and probably would have tasted delicious, but I followed the recipe and added cheese. I used Asiago because the recipe said it would be fine. Let me tell you. IT IS NOT. Don't use Asiago. It's too strong and does not go well. Go with the standard parmesan. And even then, you might not even need it. It doesn't need to be that creamy. It chunked up my rice, and made it pretty hard to swallow because of the strong taste.

Overall result: 2/5
I learned a lot from doing this and it isn't actually too hard. It just needs lots of patience. Though I was happy with my technique, the result at the end was just too horrible to ignore. The cheese ruined it to the point of disgusting.

-Stir. Constantly. Stir stir stir.
-I've heard the mark of a good chef is a good risotto. Not sure why, but probably the focus required in making this properly. (I'm obviously not a good chef as I ruined it haha)
-Do not use Asiago for the cheese.

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