Engagement Risotto

Season: Spring

Angela Ritchie, Deli Manager, 16th & Madison

Beware: May contribute to people falling madly in love with you. Cook cautiously.

Spring is the season that reminds us of the cyclical nature of life. Of rebirth, of all things fresh and bright. The true indication of spring for me is the light, sweet, tender vegetables that come into season.

A delicious meal that I think would be perfect for the rainy, fresh Seattle spring is a treat my friends call “Engagement Risotto.” Legend has it, this recipe is so magically tasty it may make your partner want to commit for the long haul. This version is gluten-free and could easily be made vegan.

By all means, make it your own!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • About 48 ounces vegetable stock
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • ½ pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and chopped (you can substitute morels or another edible springtime Pacific Northwest mushroom)
  • 1-2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ½ - 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • ½ pound pea shoots and tendrils
  • ½ fresh lemon

Directions:

  1. Over medium heat, warm a large skillet and coat the bottom of the pan with two tablespoons of oil and a dab of butter. Add chopped onions and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and fennel (turn the heat down to avoid overcooking the garlic if you need). 
  2. Separately, heat the stock in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat. You will be slowly incorporating the stock into the rice, so you want the stock to be hot already as to not slow down the cooking process. 
  3. Once you have a beautifully aromatic mixture of butter, garlic, fennel, and onions, add the two cups of dry rice. Yes, I said add the rice to the sauté pan! The idea here is that you want the oil to coat the rice and toast it a bit to kick start the cooking process. Turn the heat up to medium-high. 
  4. When your rice looks toasty (lightly golden-brown in color), add a few ladles of stock. The pan should be hot enough to get a sizzle. Don’t over-submerge the rice–allowing it to slowly absorb the liquid and release its starch is what makes the dish creamy. Just patiently stir your rice until it has absorbed the majority of the liquid. At this point, add wine! It will give off a lot of sizzle and steam but don't worry, the rice likes it. 
  5. This is where I would add the chopped mushrooms. (Feel free to sauté the mushrooms in butter in a separate pan and set them aside until the end of the cooking process. I personally think everything likes to be cooked in the wine.) Let the wine cook off, add more stock, and repeat this process until the rice has doubled in size. 
  6. Start tasting the risotto to see where in the cooking process it is. Remember we want this to be creamy, not chewy. So taste, add salt and pepper, and more wine. Perhaps it needs more butter or more oil. 
  7. Nearing the end of the cooking process, when your rice is just about done but still al dente, add cream, cheese, and pea tendrils! The best thing about risotto is that you can easily modify it at the end to make sure that it’s perfect. Don’t be afraid to add more salt, pepper, or whatever you think it might need. 
  8. When plating, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on top, and garnish with pea tendrils, micro greens, or a few Parmesan shavings–maybe even a poached egg if you’re feeling zany.

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