Rice and misdemeanors

The Kid likes to tell a story about a long-ago cooking lesson.

Petey and The Kid.  Doesn't that sound like the title of a buddy cop movie?

Petey and The Kid. Doesn’t that sound like the title of a buddy cop movie?

At about 9 years old, already a lover of food and cooking, my child decided to learn how to prepare risotto.  The Kid came to me and I purchased supplies and found a recipe that would be easy for a novice to use.

I made sure that everything needed was available, and left the kitchen but stayed within earshot.

A delicious, text-book risotto was produced.  The Kid had increased culinary confidence and a back-pocket recipe that never failed to shock and awe.

The point to the tale was that I didn’t alarm or dampen enthusiasm with dire warnings of the complexity and difficulty of making risotto.  I also didn’t frustrate by hovering or taking over, and make my child observer instead of creator.

So, am I just an awesome mother?

Umm..no thanks, Houston, we’ll pass.

Yeah, not so much.  In my natural state I’ve a touch of the micromanager.  With me at mission control, Jim Lovell and the guys on Apollo 13 would have given up just for some peace and quiet.  If I’d been Shakespeare’s mom, he would have gone back to writing poems for greeting cards.

Maaa…I’m trying to work here!

But I only do it out of love.

So here’s the shabby but true explanation: until 10 days ago, I’d never actually made risotto.  Never.  And The Kid didn’t know.  Until last week, when I confessed.

And the response to my embarrassing admission? “You know, I’ve always thought that was a little out of character…”

I wasn’t totally clueless about risotto.  I’d studied it extensively and was well-versed in technique.  The lecture portion of the dish was mastered; I’d just never taken the lab practical.

Last week I scored some Arborio on sale at Williams-Sonoma and made a pretty rocking batch of risotto.  Like The Kid learned years ago; as long as you don’t let yourself get psyched out, risotto only requires elbow grease.  Honestly, it’s not difficult to make.

See how short and round these grains are? Kind of like Danny DeVito.

Mommy’s risotto secret

1 tablespoon olive oil + more to coat rice

1/2 yellow onion chopped

2/3 cups dry mushrooms reconstituted in 3 cups water spiked with fresh rosemary, thyme, 10 peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dry thyme

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

4 cloves garlic sliced

1/2 cup Marsala or white wine

6 cups stock-3 cups mushroom, and 3 cups other

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

1 cup frozen peas

Salt and pepper to taste

For plating:

Baby greens

Place mushrooms into pot of herbed water.  Bring to boil, and let boil for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.  Strain, keeping newly made stock for using in risotto.  Discard herbs and peppercorns.  Chop mushrooms into bite-size pieces.

Put both types of stock together into saucepan and bring to simmer.

In a large heavy pot, heat olive oil on medium.  Sautee onions and mushrooms until lightly caramelized.  Add rice and enough olive oil to coat the grains.  Toast until the rice just starts to brown.  Add garlic and cook until you can smell it.  Pour in wine and stir continuously until it all evaporates.

Adding hot stock about 1 1/2 cups at a time, constantly, gently stir until it’s all cooked in and then add the next amount.

Keep this up until the rice is cooked through, but not mushy (about 20-30 minutes and you may have stock left).  You want it to be creamy when you remove it from the heat; similar to the consistency of freshly made grits.

Remove from heat and add butter.  Keep stirring until melted, so it doesn’t separate.

Mix in cheese and still-frozen peas.

Spoon onto plate and top with a large handful of baby greens.

Serves 4-6.

Lastly, make sure to use Arborio, or another high starch, short-grain, like Carnaroli or Acquerello.  With the prolonged stirring, any long grain rice will break up and turn into an unappealing gruel.

No more badly cooked risotto!

I realize this may have made me sound a little “Mommy Dearest”.

So the true risotto lesson is to give The Kid (and everybody else) the space to stretch, grow, and maybe even stumble.  That way the accomplishment will be all the sweeter.

Not a fun-taker.

I need put the bossiness down and step away.

Thanks for your time.

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