Distinctly un-springy

Here’s to pantry staples. Last weekend we had a neighbor up for a drink, and shortly before he arrived I realized we’d all probably want dinner and I hadn’t grocery shopped in at least a week. I scoured the pantry and the freezer and was able to patch together a quick risotto, which I cooked while the guys enjoyed second gin-and-tonics. I hadn’t made risotto in a really long time, but I love having it in my arsenal. If you have never made it, it’s so worth giving it a try–once you’ve done it a few times you won’t need a recipe and you’ll be ready to make an emergency dinner suited to casual company with whatever you have on hand!

I’m piecing this recipe together from memory–any basic recipe will get you started, and the theories are really simple!

Anything-You-Have Risotto
Serves 3-4
1 cup arborio rice
1/4-1/3 cup dry vermouth or white wine (if you have white wine already open)
2-3 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, diced
Chicken stock (probably 3 cups or so; have at least 4 cups on hand.)
Whatever you want to put in your risotto–trimmed and cut-up asparagus, dried or fresh (sautéed) mushrooms, sausage, pancetta, etc.

In this case I was relying on pantry elements, so I used dried porcini mushrooms, which I soaked in boiling water for a little while, then used the soaking water (poured carefully to avoid grit from the bottom) to supplement my stock. I rinsed the soaked mushrooms a few times because this batch is annoying gritty. Before soaking them I crunched the bigger mushrooms up a little bit so the pieces were uniform in size, but I probably should have left them bigger.

I also took two sweet italian sausages out of their casings and browned them (making them into small bits) until they were 95% cooked, then set the sausage aside. (Most times I brown a slice or two of pancetta at this stage, if I don’t have sausage around.)

In the same pan where I’d browned the sausage, I melted the butter and cooked the shallot until it was soft and translucent. Medium heat, I’d guess. Scrape your spoon around to get up some of the nice browned sausage bits, if applicable.

Pour in your arborio and stir it around to combine with the butter and shallot.

Pour in the vermouth or white wine and let it cook off, adjusting the heat as needed. If you’re using mushrooms and have some soaking liquid, add that once the vermouth is cooked off. This is when you’ll really be able to scrape up browned sausage goodness; it will release almost as soon as the liquid hits it. The liquids will make lots of steam so that you can’t take any good photos. I also added in the soaked mushrooms.

Try blowing on the steam and moving really fast–ah, that’s a little better.

(Seriously, I can’t believe I’m once again apologizing for godawful photos, but…sorry. Sigh.)

Begin adding stock about 1/2 cup at a time (though I go faster; I’m lazy!), stirring frequently to avoid sticking. Keep adding stock as it cooks away, until the arborio is cooked through.

Towards the end, add in the cooked sausage, sautéed mushrooms, etc. If you want to add raw asparagus, that goes in a little earlier. Do not let it dry out, especially towards the end–add enough stock that the final risotto is creamy and has a bit of broth to it. Serve in heated pasta bowls, topped with a bit of butter and some parmesan cheese, if you have it around.

We had nice big salads (and watched The Office!) after the risotto. Yum. It’s definitely time to retire mushrooms and sausage for the summer, though, and turn my sights to asparagus.

7 thoughts on “Distinctly un-springy”

  1. I am so tired this morning that I read your first line as, “Here’s to panty stripes!” It was going to be so interesting to see how that tied into risotto. Apparently I need caffeine.

  2. …Yeah, that would have been a challenge. Now I just feel sorry for the people googling that and being sadly disappointed! Because you know they’re out there.

  3. I made risotto last weekend, too!

    Your looks better.

    I also made the world’s worst banana bread – I thought anyone could make that stuff!

    I love that you go for risotto as a quick thing to whip up while the guys are finishing their gin and tonics – I always think of risotto as time consuming, when it really isn’t. And the use of the italian sausage – yum! I must have some! Now!

  4. I love risotto! One of my favorite combinations is shrimp and aparagus with lemon and basil at the end or peas and pancetta with ricotta salata………..

    Oh and once I made some with barley that turned out really well too….

  5. Germi- I’m sure yours was delicious! And I hope I can help people realize how quick and easy risotto is…The first time I made it I didn’t believe my mom that it was going to be so simple, but sure enough!

    Juree- I love the peas/pancetta/ricotta salata combo–I tend to do a lot of absorption pastas with variations on that theme (I sub in cow’s milk feta if I can’t find ricotta salata, and am in fact planning something like that for dinner tonight!). I love the light-and-airy sound of the first combo but I can’t eat shrimp, *tragic sigh* so I couldn’t try it. I’m intrigued by the idea of adding some lemon to an asparagus risotto, though. Just a hit of juice, or quite a bit?

  6. I actually use the juice of an entire lemon and lemon zest, but I am admittedly citrus obsessed! I would try a half lemon and see if you want more– can you eat any shellfish?

  7. Cool, I’ll give it a try!

    No crustaceans–bivalves are fine. I have hand gestures to demonstrate for when I’m traveling…

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