Thursday, October 2, 2008
Lemon Risotto with Pea Puree and Mushrooms
There's just something about risotto. I don't know if it's the way you see the strands of rice start binding together gently or if it is its velvety and creamy texture once done, but it gets me every time. In fact, this is one of the meals I find myself making the most because it's so easy. I remember reading about how tedious it was to make and how you had to be behind your stove carefully making sure the rice didn't burn. The reality is that risotto is very quick to make (about 20 minutes) and can usually be made with ingredients most of us already have on hand. A few things, however, can turn a risotto from a simple weeknight supper to an amazing meal. First, using good quality stock really does make a difference, and in the case of risotto it makes the whole dish take on a richer and more intense flavor. You can obviously make it with store bought stock if that's all you have, but if you want to make this a real treat, homemade stock is definitely the way to go.
For having made stock over and over again at culinary school, I can assure you that chicken stock is pretty easy to make. Veal and beef stocks are more tedious to master, take a long time and require ingredients the regular cook does not have at home (like veal bones!). Chicken stock, however, uses the simplest ingredients. It does take about 2 hours to make, but you just need to skim off the fat from time to time once it's on the stove, so you really just need to be home and you can be doing something else while your stock is slowly simmering away. Chicken stock also freezes very well, so you can make a big batch every couple months and freeze them in individual ziploc bags that you can then take out as needed.
Once you have good stock, it's almost impossible to end up with a bad risotto, as long as you let it gently simmer away to get the rice to slowly release its starch and allow the strands to slowly meld together. I treat risotto much as I do pizza: as long as you have ingredients that complement one another, you really don't have to follow a recipe, and the possibilities are endless.
Recipe (for 4)
1 1/2 cup of arborio rice
4 cups of chicken stock
1 cup of thawed frozen peas
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
3 shallots, diced finely
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 glass of good quality white wine
2 tablespoons of butter
A large handful of cremini mushrooms
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan, and extra for serving
In a pot, bring the stock to a boil, reduce to a low simmer.
In a saucepan, add the butter and a good drizzle of olive oil on medium low heat. Once the butter is melted, add the shallots, the garlic, 2 sprigs of thyme and the oregano. Once the shallots have softened (about 2 minutes), add the rice and coat with the butter, stirring until the rice looks lightly toasted. Add the wine and gently stir. Once the wine has almost evaporated, add the stock, ladle by ladle. Keep adding stock once it has almost evaporated in the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
In the meantime, heat some olive oil on medium high heat in a separate pan. Add the 2 remaining sprigs of thyme. Add the chopped mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked through. Reserve.
In a mortar, add the peas, lemon juice and zest, a good drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. Crush with the pestle until the mixture binds together but is still chunky. Reserve.
While you are making the pea puree and cooking the mushrooms, keep a constant eye on the rice, keep adding stock and stirring gently. After about 12 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning (do not put too much salt because the Parmesan is quite salty). Once the rice is cooked, add the mushrooms and Parmesan. Fold them in gently. Add the pea puree just long enough for it to be cooked through. Serve immediately, with shaved Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!