I made risotto! And it was GOOD! I ROCK!

Rick and I like to watch Chef Gordon Ramsay abuse his supplicants on Hell’s Kitchen, and one of the staple dishes on that show seems to be risotto, which many of the contestants seem to have problems preparing. Apparently if you can’t cook risotto by the time you get to compete on Hell’s Kitchen, you should just go back home and go to bed permanently.

Rick insists that I’m a fabulous cook and that I should open a restaurant.  One problem with that idea is that I’m a huge lazyass, and restauranting takes a heckuva lotta energy.  Other than that, I also tend to doubt my own capabilities.  Take risotto, for instance:  I’ve never made it and was uncertain if I could prepare it successfully.

Since I’m working until 9 p.m. tonight, I decided to fix a big lunch for the Pumpkin and myself.  I need hot food at least once a day, otherwise I feel malnourished and deprived.  Even if I’m doing nothing more than munching on appetizers all day long (i.e., at a Super Bowl party or other festive gathering), I NEED at least one of those appetizers to be a hot dish.   A hot meal for lunch would be very satisfying, so I marinated some boneless pork chops in a mesquite-lime marinade (thank you, SuperTarget!), sliced some Roma tomatoes–and then I got daring and decided to fix risotto.

I dragged out my trusty “Joy of Cooking” and propped that beast open on the counter, set about sautéing onion and parsley in olive oil and butter, and went from there.  You can look up risotto on your own to see exactly what I did, and in the process I learned a lot about cooking rice gradually in an uncovered pan.

I followed the recipe to the letter (except for the 1/2 cup of white wine at the beginning–we don’t HAVE any white wine, we’re Kool-Aid drinkers, and the current flavor is grape, which I didn’t think would work well with the onion and parsley) and learned that much of cooking risotto is being patient and adding the liquid slowly, waiting for the rice to absorb the stock (bouillon) cup by cup, as you diligently stir.

On the show, Chef Ramsey seems particularly incensed by sticky risotto, which is caused by overcooking.  The exact, correct state of done-ness has a narrow margin of error–take the rice off the heat too soon, and it’s watery and unsatisfying.  Let it simmer too long, and you end up with a glutinous mass that won’t ‘flow’ on the plate. I think the key to getting the risotto to the proper creaminess is to keep in mind that after you simmer the rice in chicken stock (or bouillon, in my house), you’ll be adding grated parmesan cheese to it as a finish, and the parmesan will soak up some of that liquid–so you have to stop simmering a little before you’d ordinarily WANT to do.

I ALMOST overcooked it–I’d gotten it to the point where it seemed perfectly creamy, mebbe just a touch too much so, and removed it from the burner.  Then I remembered the Parmesan, and had a bad couple of seconds while I stirred that in.  Thankfully, the Parmesan had just enough liquid to allow it to be incorporated and melt nicely without binding everything together like wallpaper paste.

Rick and I had a lovely lunch, and I’m feeling pretty pleased with my bad little self.  I can cook!

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