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“Fancy” Dinner

I first tried Risotto on our honeymoon. It was the night after our wedding and we were staying at L’Auberge inWoodinsville. (Their honeymoon suite was awesome and Nancy is so fun!) We wanted to go to a fancy dinner, and my dad had surprised Eric with some cash at our wedding to take me out. It was so sweet of him! So we went to Italianissimo. The food was incredible, and the service was amazing.

I was excited that their appetizer special was risotto. I have watched lots of cooking competition shows, and they make risotto seem impossible to make, so I’d never tried. It was delicious! So creamy with so many flavors. Then my sister made some for us several months ago and I was very impressed. I decided then and there that I’d try my hand at it. But all the recipes have seemed like a lot of time and work. So I bought the risotto rice, but just had it sitting in my cupboard…until today. I tried this recipe.

First of all, the hardest part of risotto is not eating the freshly grated romano cheese. It’s so yummy! When I’m making a new recipe, I like to measure out my ingredients ahead of time, just like on the cooking shows. These bowls from the Asian dollar market are perfect for that.

Secondly, it took forever! The recipe I used said it should take 30 minutes. Following their instructions, it took me almost two hours. The rice wasn’t perfect either, some was a little too mushy and some still slightly crunchy. I found out later that the recipe should have said to stir constantly, it only said stir occasionally. Then it should only take about 45 minutes. So I’d try this again because it tasted great, I’d just stir constantly (which I put in the recipe).

I served it with some baked salmon that I had frozen in a store bought marinade, and a salad of spinach, raspberries, feta, and the dressing from this post. I’d definitely suggest something simple to go along with risotto since it’s so time consuming.

8 cups Chicken Stock (you may not need to use it all)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T minced red onion
1 and 1/4 cups Italian Arborio rice
1/3 cup good quality red wine (we use this one from Sam’s Club)
1 1/2 T balsamic vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 cup sliced white or cremini mushrooms
10 fresh basil leaves
1 Sprig fresh thyme
2 T real butter
2 T grated Romano cheese (or Pecorino Romano)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to top

In a large stock pot, heat the stock and herbs. Keep simmering throughout preparation of the dish. Next, over medium heat in a large, non-stick or cast iron skillet, heat the olive oil.

Add onions and garlic. Stir to coat for 1-2 minutes.

Add Arborio rice. Stir to coat rice really well, but do not brown. (The purpose in coating the rice with olive oil is to help control the absorption of the cooking stock) If the onions seem to have used up most of the oil, add more. The Arborio HAS to be coated, or your red wine risotto won’t be as good as it can be.

Once coated, add the red wine and balsamic vinegar, and allow most of it to be absorbed.

Add the mushrooms, stir in briefly, but do not allow the pan to completely dry up.

Add enough stock to cover the rice completely and lower the heat to low. As the liquid level drops below the rice slightly, add back enough stock to re-cover. Stir the rice constantly so that it does not stick and so it cooks evenly. This is low heat cooking, so don’t try and rush it. It’s okay if you get some or all of the basil from the simmering stock in the dish, but since the thyme is on its sprig, don’t let this get into the risotto itself, just the flavor.

Continue this process for about 20 more minutes. Taste the rice at this point to see if it is almost tender. If so, allow the present liquid level to drop until about 90 per cent absorbed. Stir in the butter and Romano cheese vigorously, then turn off the heat. The butter and cheese will provide that elegant “creaminess” that good risotto is noted for.

Garnish your red wine risotto with fresh Italian Parsley and parmigiano-reggianno.

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