It's the third day of June and I have not seen a peep of sun for a week. The Seine has swollen, engulfing the devoid sidewalks that line it, and the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay have closed their doors as a precautionary measure to protect the art and history they house. Rémi and I have also heeded warnings: we've decided to build a supply of things that would sustain the three of us if their was suddenly an emergency (such as a power outage, cut water supply, blocked roads - anything that a natural disaster or, indeed, terrorism, could inspire). It sounds a little dreary, I know, but the only consequence of such preparedness that I can foresee is extra clutter in our 37 square metre apartment, and this is minor enough.
The past few months were lived out in a mad rush that was, at the same time, somehow unsettling and slow. Complicated story short, I'm in the throws of writing a business plan-cum-visa renewal, which, if successful, will grant me the right to not only operate a small business in France, but to live here, too. It's been a stressful journey edged with way too many moments of insecurity and panic, but, all the same, I haven't failed to recognise just how fortunate I am to have this opportunity. Now I must hope that the hard work done (and the hard work that will continue, as there is still much to do) will reap the reward we're seeking. We submit my application on June 20. Please keep me in your thoughts!
Anyway, I've missed cooking (that is, cooking with experimentation and zeal, for I am still cooking, but without these wonderful elements), and now that I'm at the tail-end of my business plan, I'm letting myself think about my other projects, namely Gourmanderie, a little more. That said, as a minor effort to recommence my food project, here's my recipe for mushroom and leek risotto.
Risotto Making Tips
- Pay attention. Risotto's not something you should cook when you want to spend some time away from the kitchen. You'll need to be attentive to your risotto throughout the ladling process, which will take more or less 30 minutes.
- Keep your stock hot. Every time you add cold stock to your risotto, you're cooling your risotto down, consequently effecting the entire cooking process. Keeping the stock on a gentle simmer will keep it warm enough for you.
- Keep rice at a medium simmer throughout cooking process, that is, not too hot, not too cold.
- Evidently, turning your rice constantly aids in preventing it from sticking to the pan. Using a deep, non-stick fry pan and a wooden spoon, if you have them, will make this easier for you.
- I like to cook all risotto additions separately before I add them to my rice. This way, I have a basic risotto recipe that you can rely on every single time, and have the freedom to diversify this risotto with whatever you want.
- You can try cooking the mushrooms in the pot of stock. This helps intensify the stock's flavour while cooking the mushrooms.
- Finely chop the onion and garlic and cook on a low heat. These aromatic plants develop their flavours in time. Whatever chemical reaction occurs helps develop that Unami punch we all adore.
- Start your risotto with a cup of dry white cooking wine (sherry can work, too). Let that cup evaporate before begining to ladel in the stock, one at a time.
- Use butter. I like to use a blend of butter and oil - butter for the flavour, and oil to help prevent the butter from burning.
- Run out of stock? Continuing with boiled water (and perhaps emergency stock cubes!) should suffice.
- Quick ways to dress up your risotto: stir in some rocket, or pinenuts, or crushed walnuts, or top the risotto with these ingredients plus some cherry tomatoes (as I did in the picture). Frozen peas are another great option, as are pre pan-fried chicken strips or seafood like prawns or scallops.
- Risotto is best served immediately after cooking, but it's still good enough as a leftover (just a little starchier and gluggier).
- 1.5 litres vegetable or chicken stock
- 400g of risotto rice
- 1 cup dry white cooking wine
- 1 knob of unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 white or brown onion, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, finely diced
- 1 stick of celery, finely cubed
- 1 large leek, sliced into half-moons
- around 350g of mushrooms
- 1 tbsp of fresh or dried thyme leaves
- Parmigianno Reggiano, finely grated
- freshly ground salt and pepper
- rocket leaves and cherry tomatoes as an optional garnish
- Place the butter and olive oil in the pan. When the butter has melted, add the onion, celery and garlic, and cook on a heat until they become translucent in appearance.
- Turn up the heat a notch, add the rice, and fry for about a minute, letting the rice become slightly translucent while you stir.
- Add the cup of wine and continue stirring.
- When the wine has dissolved, throw in the thyme leaves, and then start adding the stock. Do this a ladle at a time, stirring as you go, adding a new ladle whenever the last has dissolved.
- Continue adding stock until the rice has the texture you desire (perhaps soft, but still with a bit of firmness).
- This ladling process, I find, can take up to 30 minutes at most, but usually takes me about 20.
- While you're ladling, fire up another burner and add another non-stick frypan. Add a bit of oil and butter, as well as the mushrooms, leek and a pinch of salt. On medium heat, cook these until they soften.
- When you're happy with your rice, stir in the softened mushrooms and leek, your desired quantity of Parmigianno Regianno, and some cracked salt and pepper.
- If you like, dress with fresh rocket, pine nuts and cherry tomatoes. Serve immediately.