I’ve been feeling under the weather lately. I left work early on Friday to sleep all night and empty an entire box of tissues while popping decongestants like candy—not a fun way to spend the weekend. I’m feeling much better now (although still not 100%), and I finally got around to some cooking. As my husband says, when I’m sick he starves hah. I’m not one of those chicken soup type people when I’m sick. My husband looooooves chicken soup, and tried to make me eat it all weekend! Nay I say. The first meal I cooked after being sick for a few days was going to be hot comfort food served in a bowl, but not soup. I’m talking a big bowl of hot risotto. I even stood on the loooong line at Trader Joe’s to get all my ingredients—that’s how much I needed that risotto.
If you don’t know what risotto is, you are missing out. It simple really—arborio rice cooked slowly by adding flavorful broth slowly. The texture is chewy and gooey. That might seem like the wrong word, but the result of cooking the rice slowly really creates a yummy in my tummy glue that binds the rice and ingredients together. Once you have the technique down, you can create so many varieties of this dish using tons of different ingredients—parmesan, mushrooms, lemons, herbs, pumpkin, pesto, the list goes on. It’s also a great vegetarian dish if you use vegetable stock.
I decided to go with a mushroom, leek, and herb risotto—using a bit of wine, chicken stock and vegetable stock (I ran out of chicken stock) to flavor and cook the rice. I wanted to use shitakes and creminis but the shitakes were looking a bit sad at the market. I went with button and cremini mushrooms, but you can use any combination you want. No leeks? No problem, substitute sweet onion or shallots. You can also use any combination of herbs you like. Fresh thyme is one of my new favorite things to use in the kitchen. It’s so fun to pull the leaves off the stem (grab the stem at the bottom and gently push up along the stem, knocking off the leaves). Here I use thyme, sage and parsley. Make sure you use arborio rice, regular long-grain rice won’t give you the same result! On day 1, I served this with some sautéed chicken cutlets, day 2 I served it alone. Try serving with a salad or some fish if you’d like. If you have a lot of leftovers, grab a handful of risotto, flatten into a patty (sneak in a piece of mozzarella or swiss), dip in egg, coat in breadcrumbs, and pan fry for some risotto fritters!
- 1 cup leeks, diced— trim tough green leaves and wash thoroughly, slice lengthwise then chop
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms diced
- 8 ounces button mushrooms (I I like to dice most of them and then slice a few so you can clearly see it's a mushroom risotto)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- ¾ cup white wine (I used a pinot grigio)
- 7 cups low-sodium chicken stock, or vegetable stock (or both!)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
- extra-virgin olive oil (or butter)
- Place your stock in a separate pot on low heat. Keep hot while you start the risotto. Be sure not to let it boil or else you will evaporate off a lot of the stock in the process.
- In a dutch oven or large sauté pan on medium heat, coat with olive oil and sauté the leeks and garlic until softened.
- Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until softened.
- Add the arborio rice, and toss around, toasting the rice and fully incorporating into the veggies. Do this for 2–3 minutes.
- Add the wine, and continuously stir until the liquid is absorbed. Add a ladle full of the hot stock to the risotto. Stir continuously until the liquid is absorbed. Add another ladle, and continue the process until all the stock is incorporated. This will take about 20 minutes. Make sure to continuously, and I mean continuously, stir the pot. Your arm may start to hurt, but it's a good workout!! Don't add any more liquid until the liquid already in there is fully incorporated. The risotto will thicken the more liquid you add and the more you stir.
- Once all the stock is absorbed, add the herbs and butter. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve it up!