Thursday, March 18, 2010

Daring Cooks March: Risotto

Ready to roast
The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

If you've ever watched an episode of Hell's Kitchen, chances are good that you've probably seen Gordon Ramsay dropping f-bombs all over the place. Chances are also good that a few of them were dropped over risotto: too salty, too bland, too mushy, too firm! Well, friends, I certainly hope that hasn't made risotto into some unattainable dish in your mind; something that you'll never hope to recreate at home with $5 worth of ingredients and something you'll have to plunk down $19 for, or even $27 because restaurants really like to put seafood and sausage in there.

To make a tasty risotto, you could really get by with just broth, an appropriate breed of rice and oil. If you've got more than three ingredients in your pantry, add butter, cheese, onions/shallots/leeks and some fresh cracked black pepper.

For this challenge, I used arborio rice, which is a short-grain variety that cooks up firm, creamy and chewy. I would have loved to use some soft, pungent goat cheese and shallots, but I decided to stay reasonable and instead used feta cheese and a leek I bought at Wal-Mart (I can't believe I bought produce at Wal-Mart!). I used dehydrated mushrooms for the first time, and though I wasn't super impressed with them, I will give them another chance.

Other than preparing the risotto, we also had to make our own stock. There was no mandated veggie stock recipe, so I worked with one from Epicurious and made my own edits based on what I had on hand. A good veggie stock is pleasantly simple.

Basic Roasted Vegedible Stock
adapted from Epicurious 
  • 8-10 crimini mushrooms, halved
  • 1 medium onion, chopped into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 carrots, chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped in 1-inch pieces
  • Any vegetable ends you've been saving in the freezer
  • 4 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 litres of water
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. In a roasting pan (I use a pyrex casserole dish), toss together veggies, garlic, thyme and oil.
  3. Roast in middle of oven, turning occassionaly, for 30-40 minutes or until veggies are browning
  4. Remove pan from oven and transfer veggies to stock pot. Deglaze the roasting pan with 1 cup of white wine, by boiling it for 2 minutes, and scraping down the sides of the pan. Or, do like I did and just pour the wine in, scrape a bit and dump it into the stock pot.
  5. Add bay leaves and water to the stock pot, bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  6. Strain stock, pushing against the veggie solids to release their juices. Season with salt and pepper. Stock should keep one week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.
Once you're ready to make the risotto, head on over to the Daring Kitchen for the recipe.

I forgot to save some wine for the risotto (i.e. I drank it all the night before after making the stock) so if you also forget, just use some broth instead. I actually forgot to do that part too... And then I got confused because I hadn't measure out the stock I needed, I just heated up the stock I made the night before and added it a bit at a time, like when I normally make risotto. So I suggest that you measure out the amount of stock required, because otherwise the directions are very confusing.
My final risotto was spinach, feta, leek and mushroom. Not runny, not too firm, not too mushy and not at all crunchy!

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