Sunday, March 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Risotto Challenge

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Master Chef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

You can call me crazy, but I’ve added another thing to my ever-growing list of activities. Last month I joined the Daring Kitchen – a few of my blogger friends are members – as a way to challenge myself to try new recipes and techniques that I might overlook. Too my delight, my first official challenge is something that has been on my foodie to-do-list for quite some time. I present….RISOTTO!

Within the last few months, I’ve devoured some deliciously creamy and wonderful risottos at a few Boston area restaurants (and some arancini too). I was always wary of making it at home because I thought it was quite labor intensive and difficult. With this challenge I had no excuse not to try making risotto myself. The challenge called for two things: homemade stock and risotto using the stock. I knew I had a busy week, so I made the stock a few days ahead of the risotto.

I found a few chicken stock recipes online and one in my trusty Joy of Cooking book. I cooked, simmered, and strained my way to a flavorful homemade stock.

For the risotto I decided to branch out from the recipes given and find an ‘easy’ one to attempt. My first stop was my Google Reader blogs and I came up with a winning recipe in a post on We Are Not Martha. They posted a step-by-step account of a mushroom risotto recipe from that looked easy enough to execute.

I made a few tweaks of my own to the recipe. Being the only wine drinker in my house, I don’t always have a big selection on hand. When I went to the wine collection for a dry white, the only white to be found was a not so dry Riesling. I chose to use a semi-dry red wine that I had picked up in my home state (Missouri) during my last visit home. I was also having a stressful week, so I opted to mince all the mushrooms, onions, and garlic by hand to decompress (the recipe called for the food processor).

I used a large, wide bottomed Le Creuset Dutch oven and a wooden spoon for stirring (it seemed traditional!). While I did have to stay in the kitchen to stir for the whole time, I watched TV and cleaned up my mess while I cooked.

The result was an unbelievably smooth, rich, mushroomy dinner. I only wish that I had made a triple batch because there wasn’t much leftover for lunch the next day. I’m looking forward to adding risotto to my regular dinner rotation (so is the hubby). Here’s the recipe and the result! Looking forward to the next challenge!

Mushroom Risotto
Adapted from Foodie Reflections

Makes 4 side dish servings (Very true – I wish I had tripled the recipe!)
1 1/4 cups mushrooms, cleaned and divided
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry wine (red or white)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 – 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced (plus a few springs for garnish)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

Finely chop 3/4 cup of the mushrooms (or puree in the food processor until finely chopped)
Thinly slice the remaining 1/2 cup mushrooms and set aside for later
Heat the stock in a pot over medium heat. Once it reaches a simmer decrease the heat to low and cover to hold warm
In a large wide pan (I used my giant Le Creuset Dutch oven), heat the olive oil over medium heat
Add the minced onions and cook, stirring until the onions become soft and translucent, about 5 minutes
Stir in the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add the mushrooms. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, then mix in the Arborio rice and cook for 1 minute.
Pour in the wine and stir until the wine has been absorbed by the rice.
Add one ladle of broth, about 1/2 cup, and stir every 30 seconds to 1 minute until all the broth has been absorbed
Continue this process until all the broth has been absorbed and a grain of rice pressed between two fingers separates into three pieces (for me, about a half an hour)
Stir in the Parmesan cheese, thyme and 1/2 tablespoon butter
Season to taste with salt and pepper

In a small-medium skillet melt the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat
Add the mushrooms and sauté until the edges become lightly browned
Season with a pinch of salt and pepper
To serve, spoon the risotto in a large serving bowl or onto individual plates
Garnish with the sautéed mushrooms and a few thyme sprigs

Summary for risotto:
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes, approximately
Large wide pan, skillet, stock pan, cutting board and knife (food processor), measuring cups, ladle, spoon, serving utensils and dishes


  1. I think some of your success was due to the use of the wide heavy pan which makes risotto cooking so much easier since the pan heats evenly and allows of max absorption of the stock and also the heavy pan stops the rice from sticking to the bottom a superb choice. And it sounds like the mushroom risotto was delicious I made about risotto from 1/2 kg (1.1 lbs) of rice and had plenty of leftovers to make fried rice balls and several other dishes from the cold rice. I really love risotto and all the things you can make from the leftovers.

    Your stock looks very thick and hearty great results. Bravo on your 2nd DCs challenges hope you have many more happy experiences with us. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. I'm glad you joined the Daring Kitchen, you're going to love it! Your risotto sounds delicious. Andy despises mushrooms so I never use them when I cook, but oh how I long for them sometimes!

  3. Congratulations on your first challenge!!! Welcome to the DC!

  4. Nice job! Hope you enjoy the Daring Cooks challenges!


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