Last night I cooked dinner for a friend (if you’re reading this, hi!). I wanted to make something delicious and semi-impressive. Instead of making something that I’m totally familiar with and have made successfully dozens of times, I decided to take on something new. Why not. I had a craving for my mama’s risotto, which has proven to be a crowd pleaser on numerous occasions. I’ve seen it be done, and in theory I know how it should be prepared, but I’ve never actually attempted the decadent, creamy, rice dish. I jumped in with both feet and committed, crossing my fingers and holding my breath.
My friend and I went to the store to get what I needed, and as I ran my game plan by him, I was caught very off guard when he offered a couple suggestions on how he thinks it should be done. Upon learning that I had never made this before, he even went as far as to suggest we get a plan B. I think he was teasing, because he could tell that I was a tad flustered, but even so, I don’t do plan B. It shows lack of confidence. Go big or go home. I’ll be honest, I’m not used to people questioning my authority in the kitchen. Sorry if that sounds arrogant, but I’m used to just going into the kitchen, doing my thing, and serving my creation to friends who accept it with open arms.
I got nervous. What if this didn’t turn out well? What if I ended up with a mushy, sticky pot of salty rice? I kept my composure though, showing nothing but supreme confidence in my culinary abilities. I could do this. And I did. It was great. Smooth, creamy, perfectly al dente. Love in a bowl. And don’t tell anyone, but it was easy.
Mushroom Chicken Risotto
1/2 of a white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 chicken breasts
12 oz. arborio rice
32 oz. chicken stock
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 C. milk or cream
2/3 C. grated parmesan cheese
1 container (8 oz I think?) sliced button mushrooms
1 handful fresh chopped parsley
First, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss mushrooms on a baking sheet with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and pepper, and place in the oven. We’ll come back to these later. In a sauce pot, heat chicken stock. In another large pot, heat a splash of olive oil on medium heat. Saute onions and garlic in the olive oil until onions are slightly softened. Slice chicken breasts diagonally into 1/2 inch thick strips. Add to pot and cook until you can’t see any more pink. Add rice and toast for a couple minutes, stirring frequently. You don’t want it to brown. Check on your mushrooms now. Give ’em a toss and let them roast some more. Now add about 1 cup of the hot chicken stock to your rice, stirring frequently. When it has been almost entirely absorbed, add another cup and repeat. Do this until you have used all of the chicken stock. You want to achieve an al dente texture. You might not have to add all of the chicken stock, or you might have to add extra. Use your best judgement. You don’t want to see liquid, but you don’t want a ball of mush. The process of adding in the chicken stock should take about twenty minutes. If you’re still stirring in liquid an hour later, something went terribly wrong. Add the butter and melt it into the risotto. Your mushrooms should be ready now. Slightly browned and reduced in size. Add these to the rice. Also add the milk or cream, and the cheese. Stir it all up until the milk has been absorbed and the cheese is melted. Taste it. It probably doesn’t need salt because there’s usually plenty in the chicken stock and cheese, but do what you want. I like to add a few grinds of fresh cracked black pepper. Throw in the chopped parsley now, too. There you have it. Serve, and watch your skeptical friend realize what a culinary baller you are.
Speaking of being a baller…
P.S. This makes a pretty good sized pot of risotto. Definitely enough for at least 4 people as a main dish. You can also leave out the chicken to make a nice side dish. Roasted chopped asparagus would also be lovely to add along with the mushrooms, and maybe some lemon zest to add a fresh twist at the end. Be creative. I usually make things up as I go.