Making risotto is contemplative cooking: it must be stirred, it can’t be rushed, you can’t be distracted, you can’t leave it. It’s soft, and therefore was a favorite of my mother’s when I moved into her home to companion her in her end years.
While cooking risotto late one afternoon, Mama napping on the other side of the wall behind the stove, I became aware that she had been asleep for a long time and was much later than usual getting up. She usually walked into the kitchen while I cooked, flipping on the overhead light that was off because I detest overhead lights. She asks me what I’m cooking, then decides if she can eat it or not that day, like I had given her a choice. But that evening, she wasn’t up. I couldn’t leave the risotto to check on her, and my head went crazy with the unlikely possibilities, even while knowing she had overslept and would be irritated with herself, or, more likely, with me.
Finally able to set the pot off the burner, I went to her bedroom. I stood in the doorway until I heard a soft snort. I let out a sigh of relief. I realized then that while I might say I was ready for this to be over, I was not. When I woke her to tell her dinner was almost ready, she was predictably vexed that I had let her sleep so long. Maybe I was ready for this to be over. But first, the Parmesan needed to be stirred into the risotto.
Makes 4 servings
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
20 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced (however much of whatever kind you want, or mixed)
2 shallots, diced
1 carrot, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
3 tablespoons dry white wine
sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
2 tablespoons butter
¼ c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Optional additions: frozen peas, steamed asparagus, baby spinach (add to cooked risotto and heat until wilted), parsley or basil . . .
In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat.
Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms, and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots and carrots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed.
Reduce heat to low: Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add more warm liquid as needed.
Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid (and other cooked vegetables you may choose), butter, chives, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.