I love risotto. Why? It’s something that can’t be automated, can’t be turned into some
mass produced commercial product. Don’t get me wrong, companies try; but the simple truth is that it won’t work for one specific reason: risotto must be stirred. While this might seem like an extremely simple problem, it continues to confound the big food companies and presents us with fantastic news: the old fashioned way is the only way. This easy risotto recipe takes less than 30 minutes, requires easy to find, cheap ingredients, and pairs well with dozens of proteins if you don’t want a vegetarian dish. Let’s get our things together, shall we?
1 sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can chipotle in adobo
1 can pumpkin puree
1 package dried mushrooms
1 package oyster mushrooms
1 cup white wine
1 cup apple juice
2 cups Arborio rice
First things first, we need the cooking liquid for the risotto. Soak the dried mushrooms in water for at least 30 minutes, then remove them and add the water to a saucepan. Add the apple juice and white wine, bring to a very slow simmer. As soon as that’s going, we can start the rice. Don’t worry! This will be a breeze.
Get a little olive oil going in a heave bottomed saucepan and turn the heat to medium high. Once it’s a little toasty, add the onions and let sweat for 2-3 minutes and add the garlic. Let that sweat for about 3 minutes, then add the rice and stir it for about a minute.
This step of toasting the rice is actually quite important because it ensures that all of the starch on the outside of the rice is coated with fat (in this case, olive oil). The combination of the oil and starch is what will thicken the cooking liquid, giving the finish dish its creamy texture.
Now that the Arborio, onions, and garlic are nice and warm and happy, add some of the cooking liquid that was made earlier. You only need enough to cover the rice, then stir constantly while it cooks down. This is when to add the main flavoring: stir in 3 tablespoons of the adobo sauce and 1 cup of pumpkin puree, making sure that there is enough liquid to keep the rice cooking. Remember, keep stirring! Why?
There are 2 reasons that the best risotto recipe has to be stirred throughout the cooking process. First of all, it prevents rice from burning to the bottom of the pan and completely ruining the dish. Secondly, stirring is what agitates the starch and makes the dish creamy. Don’t misunderstand; you don’t need to vigorously beat the tar out of it like you’re whipping cream, just stir to keep moving what’s on the bottom to the top. After about 25 minutes of this, the rice will be cooked. Don’t watch the clock though!
The best way to determine when the rice has cooked is by tasting. Just sample a little bit every few minutes; you’ll know when it’s done when it tastes perfect. We do have one small thing missing though: seasoning. Now, usually you want to season your food as early in the cooking process as possible, often before you even start cooking. So why wait in this dish?
Risotto is often traditionally finished with cream, butter, or some kind of fine cheese (parmesan for example). Butter and parmesan can be quite salty, so I personally prefer to season towards the end of the cooking process to be sure that it doesn’t turn out salty. Simply add salt and pepper to taste, and this vegetarian risotto is done. Except for the mushrooms…
Just chop them roughly and sauté them on high heat in olive oil with salt and pepper. They’ll have a super simple, clean and pure flavor that will lend a great earthiness to the dish.
By the way, don’t think that just because this is a fancier dish that you can’t get the kids involved. After all, that’s what I’m all about! Here are a few simple things that the little ones can help with:
Stirring (properly supervised)
Serving onto the plate
Adding cooking liquid (carefully supervised)
Safety first! If you aren’t sure your little one can do something, don’t risk it! They’re happy just to be in the kitchen with you, asking thousands of questions.
This is obviously a vegetarian risotto recipe, but you can make it vegan if you don’t add cream or butter at the end (which is optional anyway). More of a carnivore? Try some of these free recipes to pair with the risotto, and have fun cooking up some memories.