Last weekend, I took a mini-vacation to visit my friends Meg and Greg at Greg’s home in southern Virginia. Our goals for the weekend included a lot of wine, delicious food, and taking cover from the hurricane by staying indoors and watching How I Met Your Mother DVD’s for hours. Mission accomplished.
Say “Hi” to Meg and Greg! They are friends from college. I won’t lie. We spent a significant portion of the weekend discussing reasons why the University of Virginia is the greatest school of all time, and reasons Virginia Tech should just give up and admit their defeat.
So, listen, we made an incredible meal Saturday night. It included goat cheese and herb stuffed chicken thighs, roasted balsamic-rosemary peaches, steamed broccoli, and Greg’s red wine risotto recipe which was to die for. I’ll post the chicken and peach pictures separately. First, check out Greg’s risotto, below.
You’ll notice two things about this write-up:
1. I am blatantly copying and pasting Greg’s words verbatim, because I’m lazy and he did an excellent job describing his recipe.
2. At one point he mentions that Meg helped him chop something. You’ll notice he never mentions anything about me helping with this recipe. Once again, that is because I am lazy and I was content to sip my pinot noir and take the occasional photograph while Greg did all of the work on this one.
Chicken stock, about 3-4 cups
Arborio rice, 1 cup
Red wine, about half a glass
Garlic, 2 cloves, minced
Crimini mushrooms, about 1 cup, sliced
Shallot, finely chopped
Frozen peas, about 1 cup
Parmesan cheese, grated, a big handful plus more for serving at the table
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
First, open up a bottle of red wine. Since we were using a red wine for this risotto (a Pinot Noir, I’m pretty sure), you’ve got to let those tannins mellow before you get into it. Once the tannins are sufficiently mellowed, pour a glass for yourself and any lovely ladies that happen to be in the kitchen with you. Cooking with wine is always more fun when you’re drinking it too, and drinking wine is always more fun when it’s a collaborative endeavor.
This photo doesn’t actually contain anything related to the risotto, it’s more to prove that we were in fact drinking the rest of the wine.
Next, warm up the stock in a small sauce pot over medium heat. I used about half of a carton of chicken stock (low sodium, please), which looked like about 3-4 cups to me (Editors note: usually cartons are 4 cups.) Once the stock gets to bubbling, reduce the heat to a simmer and maintain that throughout the cooking process. While the stock is heating up, get your ingredients prepped and ready to go. I chopped the onion, minced the garlic and shallot, sliced the mushrooms (with an egg slicer), and Meg grated the cheese.
Mushrooms and shallots, an unbeatable combination.
Once you’re all set up, put a large pan over medium heat and add two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and pepper to sweat until the onion is softened, which should take about 10 minutes. After 7-8 minutes, add the garlic, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is browning (or burning). After the onion and garlic have cooked down, add a cup of Arborio rice and stir it into the pan, so that the rice grains get covered in the fat and begin to fry up. This deepens the flavor of the rice and help to prevent it from clumping together. A couple of minutes of this, stirring constantly, should be fine.
Here’s where things get interesting. When adding liquid to risotto, you want to do it bit by bit so that you give the grains of rice time to absorb the liquid and release their starch into the sauce. Start by adding about half of a glass of red wine into the pan. Stir the wine in and give it a minute so that the rice and soak in the flavor (and color). Once the wine looks well incorporated, add a ladle or two of the warm chicken stock and stir in the liquid. You have to stir more or less constantly to get the rice to release its starch and create the desired creamy texture. Continue this process of adding chicken stock by the ladle and giving each infusion of liquid a minute or two to be absorbed; the whole process should take about 15-20 minutes total. Taste often to check the done-ness of the rice and the consistency of the sauce.
Yes, this photo is out of focus. My apologies. I blame the wine.
Meanwhile, in another pan over medium heat, add a few tablespoons of butter. Once the butter has melted and stopped foaming, add the minced shallot and cook down for a few minutes. Then, add the sliced mushroom caps and a big pinch of salt and pepper.
After the rice has been cooking for 15 minutes or so, add the frozen peas. I like to pour them straight out of the bag into the pan. Cook for a few minutes more, adding stock as necessary. Stir in a big handful of Parmesan cheese, which will make the sauce gooey and add some seasoning. Add the mushroom-shallot-butter mixture and stir to combine. Check the risotto for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as needed. Top it off with a few pats of butter and serve immediately. You could top it off with some parsley to add a bit of freshness to the risotto, but we didn’t bother (i.e. I forgot to get that at the grocery store). Pass around some Parmesan cheese at the table, because I don’t think any recipe has ever been made worse by the inclusion of more cheese.
Voila! It. Was. So. Good. Go make some yourself.
There you have it, folks. Special thanks to Greg for being an incredible host.