Risotto and Bourbon


Okay, I know I’ve been away a week.  A lot has been going on.  One big thing that I’m not ready to talk about yet.  One big thing that has taken over my life a little and goaded me into a decade+ long commitment.  This thing.

Meet Bourbon

She’s some sort of Italian Greyhound variation.  She has the energy of five dogs, and I spent the first three days just monitoring her and this lil’ bedhead –

It won’t surprise any of you that know Belly to learn she was the instigator of most of the disagreements, insomuch as she was like, “Hey do you want to play?  I want to play.  I want to play right now.  Now. Now. Now.  Playtime right now.  Why aren’t you playing with me?  I believe I told you playtime was in order.  Play? Play? Play, damn you!”

And the new dog is like, “Woah.  Can I just have a second, please?  No, really.  I need to go sniff that corner because it’s completely new and who knows what’s happened there, and I have to figure this out, stat.  So, get off.  No seriously, get off.  Like now. Now!”

Which devolved into –

“Play? Play!”
“Not now. Get off!”
“Fine, *%&$ you then.”
“%($% right back, you cheeky little snaggle-toothed underbite-having fluff ball.”
“Who you calling snaggle-tooth, rat ears?”

etc., etc., etc.

But now they seem to have worked it out – here’s the post I was in the process of writing

___________________________________________

How silly of me.

A little while back, I told you that chicken stock takes 4-6 hours to make.  It does.  But what I failed to mention… pan stock only takes an hour.  It’s a bit more labor intensive, meaning it’s going to take like ten minutes of prep versus five, but it’s worth it when you need chicken stock and don’t have time/patience to wait 4-6 hours.

This is not for the squeamish.  Because you need to break bones.  With your hands sometimes. But it’s worth it if that part doesn’t freak you out.

The other night I was over at Todd’s, and we made some good risotto.  Maybe even really good.  But it was not great.  And risotto should be great.  Risotto should only fall within the range of great to transporting because it is a miracle of starch and a tribute to cheese.  Anything less than great is more or less a crime against risotto (see Big Night).  So anyway, I sat there for a good ten minutes, vocally running through speculation after speculation of what in the hell was wrong with the risotto.  Isn’t Todd a patient fellow?

It wasn’t the texture.  It was creamy and toothy.  The cheese was a little wrong, since I mostly used pecorino romano, out of necessity, but that wasn’t what was throwing it off.  The mushrooms were tender, caramelized.  What the hell was it?

“Could it use more salt?”
“But I put like a teaspoon in, and it’s starting to get salty.  That’s not it.”
“It just doesn’t have that much flavor.”

That’s because the chicken stock we used was mostly the pale, wan store-bought variety.  Which is fine, it made some good risotto.  Even very good.  But for great risotto, you need a rich, rich stock.  (To be fair, the wine we used was also a pale, wan Sauvignon Blanc, and I’m a Chardonnay girl for sure when I’m cooking, but let’s blame the real culprit, el stocko).

Not ever being one to be able to let go of my failures, I was determined to redeem myself, but being short on time this week, didn’t have the an extra 6 hours to make stock.  I was going to give up the idea and wait until next week, until I remembered pan stock.

Pan Stock

1 chicken carcass, chopped into 1″ pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 carrot, small dice
1 celery stalk, small dice
1 onion, small dice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
water
sprig of thyme, bay leaf, a few peppercorns, parsley stems if you got ’em

Cut/break the chicken bones into 1″ pieces. If your knife isn’t sufficing, you sometimes have to brute force it and break the bones with your bare paws.

Heat wide pan on high heat and add tablespoon of oil.  Sear chicken on all sides. The darker the sear, the richer the stock.  A mahogany sear.  Remove from pan.  Add vegetables and one small pinch of salt.  Saute until lightly caramelized. Add tablespoon of tomato paste and stir.  Cook for one minute.  Deglaze with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, scraping the brown bits.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.  Return chicken to pan, and add just enough water to cover the bones.  Add thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns, and parsley stems, if you have them.  Let simmer for 1 hour.  Strain.  If not using right away, chill in an ice bath, or in cold water in your sink until cool, cover, and refrigerate or freeze.

That's better.

So armed with a deep, rich pan stock, I was ready to attempt the redemptive risotto.

I found some Oyster Mushrooms at Gene’s –

I like oysters because they are earthier than a cremini, but less abrasive than a shitake. They're expensive, so I only use them when mushrooms are the star/co-star.

Mushroom Risotto

Did you know it's almost impossible to make risotto look good? No joke. Google risotto and go to images. Right?

4-6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6-8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup white wine, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup arborio rice (no substitutions)
2 tablespoon fresh herbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Truffle salt, to taste

Heat up stock on low and keep warm. In a separate pan big enough for the risotto, melt 2 tablespoons butter and then saute shallots until translucent, 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and saute until tender.  Add a pinch of salt and stir.  Add 1/4 cup of the white wine and reduce until the pan is dry.  Set mixture aside.  In same pan, melt last tablespoon of butter.  Add rice and toast for 1 minute.  Add 1/4 cup of wine and reduce until almost dry.  The time has come for you to commit to the risotto.  Pour yourself a glass of wine and get ready because you need to settle in at this point.

Add stock one 4 ounce ladle full at a time and stir.  Keep stirring.  Are you stirring?  You need to be stirring.  That’s why risotto is such a labor of love.  You can walk away for like 30 seconds time, but that’s all.  It’s best if you just keep stirring to release the starches. See why you poured that glass of wine?  Because now you’re stuck at the stove for like 20-25 minutes.  So once the 4 ounce ladleful (or 1/2 cup) has been absorbed into the rice – you’ll know because when you draw back the rice, it won’t run into the crevice – add the next one.  Once you get about 6 ladles in, taste it.  If it’s getting close to the texture you want, mix the mushrooms back in.  Continue adding stock and stirring until the risotto is creamy and al dente.  Then stir in the parmesan and herbs.  If your risotto has become a little stiff, just add a little more stock to loosen it up, stir in and turn off the heat. Add truffle salt (or regular salt) and pepper to taste.

Mmmm...redemptive.

This is my risotto gauntlet.  Send me a picture of a beautifully photographed risotto.  Seriously, reader, I need schooling.

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