Monday, March 05, 2007

Respect the Risotto

Two summers ago while I was enjoying an all-expenses-paid trip to England for my company, I found myself homeless for a few nights. I'd been staying at a quaint little place with all my coworkers for about a month at that point, so having to check out of the room I was basically living in and and going off on my own was so sad. I showed up at the new hotel and was immediately confronted with the fact that I was to be sleeping at the end of a Harrier jet runway in a room that wasn't big enough to actually walk around the bed. I had to open the front door just to use the ironing board!

The most frightening part of the whole experience was eating alone. Before I went to England, I'd only eaten in a restaurant alone a handful of times. I remember really working to convince myself to get out on the weekends and do things alone. Get out of my comfort zone. But eating meals at The Hollies hotel with my coworkers was sort of like being with family every night. And here I was at a hotel about 4 towns away with nothing to keep me company but a book.

I remember that day so clearly. It was just gorgeous out, a rarity in England. After I'd managed to get my bag in my room, I walked across the small courtyard to the restaurant. I wasn't expecting much because for the most part hotel restaurants in the countryside where I was were basically only there so people didn't starve. But the
menu! I was overwhelmed by the choices! So I ordered myself a Guinness (warm of course), and some food, then told them I'd be outside with my book and could they please bring the food out there when it was ready.

Have you ever had a meal that from the first bite you were sad because you knew eventually there'd be no more on your plate? A meal that was so delicious that you knew if you could just learn how to make it yourself at home, you'd feel like a success in the kitchen? I remember every bite of that bubbling hot mushroom risotto and since then I've been obsessed. If I see risotto on a menu, I order it. But it has never once tasted like that risotto I had while sitting in a courtyard with a
good book and delicious beer.

Until now I've been too scared to even try to make it myself. I've had a box of Arborio rice (Italian) sitting in my cupboard forever, and I even drooled over The Silver Spoon cookbook (just translated from Italian!) because of all the risotto recipes. So today I sucked it up and decided to try it.

The first thing you have to know about risotto is that it takes its time. You can't hurry risotto, and it really is a lot of hard work. The second thing you need to know is that it needs to be tended constantly. You'll stir it for 25 minutes straight before it'll be just right. And your arm will feel like falling off. And third, there's no underestimating the importance of adding your broth small amounts at a time and allowing the rice to
take it in before you add more. Like I said, time is apparently the key in all this.

My first risotto recipe, and resounding success: Parmesan Risotto-Stuffed Portobello.

It was so good, but I don't think I'll ever find a risotto like the one I had in a little town in England.


Blogger egan said...

Your risotto dish looks very good. I'm a huge fan of risotta, I think it's a texture thing and it's so yummy.

10:50 PM  
Blogger ChickyBabe said...

That looks so yummy! A dish I can't perfect yet... but I am told you should do a lot of stirring with one hand while the other is to be used for sipping wine. I tried it last time, and it worked! :)

12:22 AM  
Blogger African Kelli said...

sweet memories A!

9:01 AM  
Anonymous Joe Coomer said...

I busted out my YPC '97 shirt at Volley Ball last night. We were the smokenest Co-Chairs ever! Holla

11:41 AM  
Anonymous ramona said...

I'm salivating...

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Em said...

Holy Crap! That looks good. Will give it a try.

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Amanda Cowan said...

I'm not a big fan of portobello mushrooms but holy cow! that looks delish! I can't believe it's been two summers since you went to England already!

6:21 PM  
Blogger Adeline said...

wow that is super fancy!

i always thought of risotto as rather "high falutin" type of thing to make, so way good!

9:55 PM  

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