Saturday, May 31, 2014

Risotto alla Milanese

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible.

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

Risotto has an unfair reputation for being labor-intensive and time-consuming, but it's actually a pretty simple proposition: all it requires is that you stand at the stove and stir for a half hour or so. This makes it an ideal choice for those nights when you feel like hanging out in the kitchen, optimally with someone you enjoy chatting with (NB this person can also perform helpful services like refilling your wine glass, changing the music, and dealing with the pets who invariably begin begging the minute anyone gets busy at the stove). I make risotto fairly often, and have posted a number of different versions over the years, from the classic to the expedient to the iconoclastic and/or countercultural.

Today's iteration came about because I spotted some beautiful mushroom stock at Dave's Fresh Pasta in Somerville (a veritable Aladdin's cave of culinary riches) and immediately knew its earthy, starchy destiny. If you don't have access to prepared mushroom stock, you can easily make your own, or use regular vegetable or no chicken stock if you can't be arsed. (But let's face it, everything is more fun with fungus; as Ms. Plath notes above, resistance is futile.) However you choose to proceed, I encourage you to whip up a pot of this soon; in addition to its other charms, it makes great company food, because people imagine that you've slaved over it, and - especially at this time of year - all you need is a green salad and/or some roasted asparagus on the side for the perfect springtime dinner. 

Risotto alla Milanese
~ 6 cups strong mushroom stock (homemade or store-bought)
~ 1 tsp. saffron threads
~ 1 large bay leaf
~ 1 lb. mushrooms, sliced (I used baby bellas)
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 large yellow onion, diced fine
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2 cups Arborio rice
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ A few grinds black pepper
~ 3/4 cup dry white wine
~ 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
~ Juice of one lemon

~ In a saucepan, combine the mushroom stock, saffron, and bay leaf. Heat almost (but not quite) to boiling, and keep on a low heat.
~ Coat a skillet with cooking spray and sauté the mushrooms over high heat for 5-7 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Sprinkle with a little salt and set aside.
~ Place a large, deep saucepan or dutch oven on medium heat, and cook the onion in the olive oil for 7-10 minutes, until soft and golden but not browned.
~ Add the garlic and the Arborio rice, and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly so that the grains are coated.
~ Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan, stirring well to remove any bits that may have stuck to the bottom. 
~ Once the wine has cooked off, discard the bay leaf and begin adding the mushroom stock to the pot by ladlefuls, stirring with each addition until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
~ Continue this process until you have only about a cup of stock remaining (this is the part where your helpful glass-refilling chum comes in).
~ With the last addition of stock, stir in the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and reserved sautéed mushrooms. Mix well and continue cooking another 5 minutes, until the mixture is creamy but still retains a teensy bit of “bite.”
~ Serve immediately with a green salad, steamed or roasted vegetables, and more wine!

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