Thursday, January 05, 2012

Champagne Adventures + Risotto

Last night, Bunny and I had a blast. He was off school at about 3:30, so we met up to get groceries (and I was pleasantly surprised with the total, especially since it included a bulk chocolate chip purchase and a quart of heavy cream - staying on budget makes me happy) and then came home for reading snuggles before I got to work with dinner.

A couple weeks back, I posted about the surplus of champagne and lack of any other decent wines in our home. This week, some of that champagne (well, prosecco ... I call all sparkling wines champagne even though I shouldn't) is getting put to use in the kitchen. Case in point: tonight, I will be making chicken with a champagne cream sauce.

Last night, though, I tackled a project I've long wanted to do: risotto. Oh, I know I've made barley risotto before, but it's not nearly the same. Delicious, but different. This was a simple mushroom risotto, which certainly didn't come out perfect but came out very good for a first try (especially considering I didn't particularly use a recipe. Just elements of recipes. We've talked about this before, right?).

Also in the re-occuring theme of discovering old music I have loved, I danced around to Bright Eyes I'm Wide Awake it's Morning while cleaning/cooking. I had forgotten how clearly Lua was about cocaine, and how heartbreaking Poison Oak is. How much I love his spoken word lead-ins to albums. The haunting beauty of Landlocked Blues, how much Road to Joy makes me smile and how some lines from Another Travelling Song snag my heartstrings.

Mushroom Champagne Risotto
(basic outline from Smitten Kitchen - asparagus, artichoke and mushroom risotto)

Setting Up:
Open champagne/prosecco/sparkling drinks. Pour glass for yourself. Turn on favourite music. Begin.

  • 1 cup (approximately - I had a leeeetle bit more) arborio rice
  • 4 cups (again, approximately. I don't do exacts) chicken broth
    • Substitute: Water + chicken bouillon
  • 3/4-1 cup dry (brut) champage etc
  • 2 cups finely sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp finely chopped onion (I used red)
  • minced garlic to taste (I used about 4-5 cloves)
  • Olive oil to coat pans.
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1-2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1-2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more to garnish
  1. Slice or chop any and all ingredients that need slicing or chopping.
  2. Put approx 1 tbsp olive oil in saute pan over medium heat. When hot add 1 tbsp chopped onion and minced garlic (1 clove here, for me). Saute until translucent, then add mushrooms to pan. Season liberally with salt and 1 tsp each tarragon and thyme. Saute, occasionally moving, until they begin to smell meaty and substantially reduce in volume. (Took me about 5 minutes). Remove from heat, set aside for later.
  3. Bring chicken stock to a boil, reduce to simmer. The stock should stay lightly simmering the entire time you're cooking. Add approximately 1-11/2 tbsp olive oil to pot/dutch oven, bring to medium heat. Add 1/4 cup chopped onions plus garlic, season lightly with salt, 1 tsp each thyme and tarragon (or to taste). Saute until translucent.
  4. Add arborio rice to onions, stir to coat with oil. Stirring frequently, cook approximately 5 minutes, until it begins to smell nutty. Bring heat down to medium low, add champagne to pot. Stirring gently but constantly until champagne is fully absorbed.
  5. Slowly add broth, one ladleful at a time (my ladle holds between 1/2 to 1 cup), stirring until fully incorporated. Keep heat low - the risotto mixture should not be bubbling, just absorbing. Once each ladleful is absorbed, add another. Stir.
  6. This process should take about 30-45 minutes. After about 30 minutes, taste rice for doneness, it probably won't be done but it never hurts to check. Keep adding ladles of broth and incorporating until rice tastes done. (I like the rice softer, some people might like a more al dente risotto. If you're the one eating, cook it until you like the texture.) If you start running out of broth before your risotto tastes done, bring some water to a boil in your kettle (or the same pot) and use that. It's not an exact science.
  7. For a finished risotto, you're looking for something that "spreads" when plated. It should be fairly loose, and very very creamy. When your rice tastes done, at this point you're adding liquid for texture. If the risotto doesn't feel loose, add more broth and cook a minute more.
  8. Remove from heat, add parmesan and sauted mushrooms, stir to incorporate.
  9. Plate! Sprinkle additional parmesan over the risotto to taste (Bunny and I like lots). Enjoy. Let your significant other tell you how "This is just soooo good. Make it again? Can I have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow?" and complain that there's no meat, because I swear he's half way to being a carnivore.
  • Don't like mushrooms? Use fresh cooked peas, or small cubes of cooked squash, or whatever your heart desires.
  • You could probably saute the mushrooms while the risotto is cooking, and I probably will in the future.
  • Don't want to use sparkles? Dry white wine. Something you're not afraid of having a glass of while cooking.
  • This recipe did not turn out perfectly - my risotto wasn't quite as loose as I would have liked to feel like I did it right (if I'd been on Top Chef, Wolfgang Puck would have given me a tutorial) but that doesn't matter. It tasted delicious. Remember, if you're cooking for yourself or for your friends/family it doesn't matter if it's perfect. Taste good? Yes? Good enough! But - you'd better believe that I will try to perfect this.

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