26 Mar

As a person of Chinese descent, I have a certain mindset when it comes to rice.  I grew up on long grain rice that is slightly sticky and a lot softer than the Italian version of rice.  And most of the time, flavorings were added after the cooking process, not during.  Of course, the exceptions to that are dim sum style sticky rice that often comes in an earthen pot and pieces of meat and veg on top, such as my favorite, Steamed Chicken with Shitake Mushrooms. YUMMY!
Here is a link to a great version of this claypot recipe https://omnivorescookbook.com/recipes/clay-pot-chicken-rice 

Italian rice makers have a totally different philosophy.  The end product is a lot firmer (al dente) than Chinese style rice, and the flavorings such as white wine, chicken broth, onions, garlic and mushrooms are added during the cooking process.  And my mother would definitely disapprove of the constant stirring of risotto.  I was told in no uncertain terms as a child that YOU DO NOT STIR THE RICE while it is cooking, as this will cause the rice to stick to the bottom of the pot.  

You can imagine that for me, learning to make risotto was a huge mental shift.  In the words of Yoda to young Luke Skywalker, "You must unlearn what you have learned".

If you were to ask me which type of rice is easier to make, I would say, both require practice to perfect, so they both require skill and patience.  If you ask me which is tastier, well, I guess that depends on your preference. I however refuse to pick one over the other.  Both are tasty, it just depends on what you are in the mood for!

You will get a lesson in patience and a good arm workout when you make risotto.  With the continuous stirring you will do from beginning to end, you will understand why risotto has a great deal of love incorporated into it.

Risotto with Mushrooms - 4 servings

3 tbsp good olive oil

1/2 white onion, diced

2 cups sliced mushrooms, whatever variety you like but I use white button mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups Arborio Rice, rinsed

2 cups white wine

3 cups of warmed chicken broth

1 tbsp butter

Juice of 1 lemon

Parsley for garnish

Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste


in a very wide and deep pan such as a Texas skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Saute the onions for 2 minutes, stirring constantly until onions are translucent.  Add sliced mushrooms and stir for at least 5 minutes, until the mushrooms start to release their water and the sound you hear from the pan becomes more of a sizzling sound rather than bubbling with water.  Add minced garlic and stir through, do not allow the garlic to burn. You want the garlic to become just aromatic, but not burnt, as this will leave  your dish tasting like, well, burnt garlic.  

Add your rinsed Arborio rice to the pan and stir, making sure not one grain gets stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Toast the grains for 1 or 2 minutes, until you feel the grains are starting to get dried out and just beginning to toast.  Then, slowly, add your white wine, 1/2 cup at a time.  Reduce heat to medium low.  Stir patiently between each addition of wine. Each addition of wine should be spaced by 5 minutes of stirring. Every time you add liquid to the pan, the liquid should just cover the rice. You want to stir patiently scraping all the grains off the bottom of the pan.  When it seems like the rice could use a little more liquid, add the next 1/2 cup of wine. Do this two more times, until you have gone through all two cups of wine.  

Once you are finished adding all your wine, start adding the warmed chicken broth, using the same method.  Add 1/2 cup of broth each time, stirring well and continuously between each addition of broth.  What you will find is the rice becomes creamy over time and the rice, when done, should be creamy yet firm.  The whole process should take about 45 minutes or longer, depending on how quickly you allow the liquid to cook off.  Lower your heat settings if you are going through the wine and broth too quickly and yet you feel the rice is still crunchy.  You may need to supplement with a bit more liquid (warm water is fine if you are out of broth)  if your risotto is not tender enough at the end of this process. Just before serving, add butter and stir it through.  Squeeze lemon juice all over the rice; it won't be necessary to stir it in.  Taste for salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.

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