Many a chef and many a household cook have been terrified by the prospect of making risotto. Time-consuming and purported to be extraordinarily difficult to make, risotto usually gets a bad rap. Yet it is so creamy and delicious and absolutely delightful to eat, that the “Mélange á Trois” girls could not help but roll up our sleeves and take up the challenge that risotto presents and attempt our own interpretation. Well, as usual when we try to do something complicated that we’ve never tried before, we had to do a little research to get the procedure down. Sophie hit on a great recipe from Cooking Light Magazine that served as our base, and with a little brainstorming (and the luck of what happened to be in our refrigerators at the time), we added just a few of our own touches to make it special.
MUSHROOM RISOTTO WITH SPINACH AND SUNDRIED TOMATOES
4 cups of chicken stock (preferably low sodium)
4 bacon slices, chopped
2 pancetta slices, chopped
1-tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4 medium-sized)
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces oyster mushrooms, sliced
4 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced and with the stem removed
1 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup dry sherry
4 cups baby spinach
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bring the chicken stock in a small saucepan to a simmer, but do not let it boil. While chicken stock is warming, heat a large pan (a Dutch oven or a stock pot work best) over medium-high heat and then add the bacon and pancetta to the pan. Cook until crisp and brown, then transfer the bacon and pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Add the olive oil to the bacon drippings in the pan and then drop in the chopped shallots, dried thyme, and garlic. Cook together, stirring occasionally, until the shallots start to brown (about six minutes) then add the mushrooms to the pan. Cook approximately eight minutes or until the baby bellas (which take a little longer) are tender.
Add the rice to the pan and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the sherry and cook for another minute. Add one cup of the warmed stock, cook about four minutes, stirring constantly, or until the liquid is nearly absorbed. Continue to add stock ½ cup at a time until all four cups have been added, allowing each ½ cup to be nearly absorbed into the mixture before adding the next ½ cup. Stir constantly as the mixture cooks. The total cooking time will be approximately 25 minutes. Once all the chicken stock has been added and the liquid absorbed, add in the spinach and cook until it is wilted. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients and the drained bacon and pancetta.
Silence descended on the kitchen as we ate this risotto; we were simply too absorbed in the deliciousness we were consuming to bother with conversation. We thought we were making a huge amount of risotto during the cooking process, but after we quickly wolfed down two portions each and scraped every last bit we could out of the pan, we realized leftovers were so not going to happen. Smoky and salty from the bacon, sweet from the sundried tomatoes, and gooey from the rice, Mushroom Risotto was absolutely a success. We will, however, be totally honest and admit that this recipe was a LOT of work. We each took a turn stirring constantly and still ended up with sore arms, so we have no idea how risotto gets made without a partner or two to share the load. That being said, the procedure actually was fairly simple and definitely worth the effort, so maybe wrangle up a date for the weekend or rope in your roommate and prepare our risotto for a delightful evening meal.