I am making risotto for dinner tonight. We will talk about that but first we are going to talk about what all happens before I even start putting things together. Risotto is a rice dish that can have everything and anything added to it or stirred into it or topped by and I think we have talked about it before, with all the mushrooms and things? This one is going to be different, this one is inspired by Magnolia Table and I am doing all the things differently than I usually do. Joanna’s recipe is titled Fresh Spinach & Leek Risotto and this is the base, I am straying from the part where she stirs the spinach into the almost finished risotto and lets it just get wilty before serving, my people like the spinach to be cooked like greens so I am going to add extra love to this step.
I am also straying by adding mushrooms with the leeks and adding the leeks in a different way. Jo wants you to dice the leeks and sautee them in a bit a of butter and wine before you introduce the rice, cooking the rice with the softened leeks. I have mushrooms on hand that need to be used so I am going to throw them in to this. And have we covered my cookbook habit? Maybe, kind of because we have covered my love of eating? Either way, I have a cookbook habit that my nearest and dearest feed like a fire on a cold night and one of these is a book of classic French dishes and in this book I found a bit about glazing garlic and braising leeks so I decided to add all of that into this dish as well.
Not to surprise you but I didn’t exactly follow the directions on the leeks, they said place the leeks in a pan with 1/2 inch of water and simmer covered for 10 minutes. I cut my leeks in half, added 3 shallots also cut in half to a pan with about a half a bottle of white wine, salted and peppered the whole affair and simmered covered for about 10 minutes before I sprinkled 1 tablespoon of powdered chicken bullion over top and put the pan into a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes. No, I didn’t stir the broth powder in, just left it on top. After about 15 minutes that was maybe closer to 20 I pulled the pan and put it back on the stove top uncovered so that the liquid could simmer off and the veg could maybe brown since that didn’t happen in the oven. The liquid wasn’t simmering off fast enough to make me happy so I poured that into the pot that I have the broth in and and tried to brown the veg with almost no liquid. I still didn’t manage to get any brown on any of my veggies so I decided that since they were tender and tasty enough to just stop futzing and move on.
Moving on to where I probably should have started is the broth. The trick to a well cooked, creamy risotto is warm broth to stir into it. Since this batch is all about the veg I decided to go with a vegetable broth. Yes, I bought some at the store but I added to it! The leeks I cut earlier? I saved the tops and ends, the shallots too. I almost always have fresh garlic on hand so I used some of that too and the last of the scallions from earlier this week. Yes, this is just like it sounds, I am throwing trash into broth. The ends that aren’t usually cooked with have the most flavor, it’s all concentrated at the roots kind of like your natural hair color in between salon visits. I am sure there is something scientific about this but I don’t have that fact at my finger tips like I should so any way… throw that trash right in! So, in our pot with the trash we will add 64 ounces of store bought veggie broth and 1 cup of water and let that simmer until it is reduced by about 1/3. Give it a stir occasionally but don’t scrape the sides of the pot so that you have a visual of how much it has reduced. Once it is down about 1/3 give it a taste, we haven’t added any salt because the store bought broth has quite a bit in it and after mine is reduced is about the same time that I am pouring the extra liquid from my leeks and shallots into the pot and that stuff got salted. I didn’t add any extra salt to mine but I did add a little MSG.
I mentioned glazed garlic so let’s discuss it! I was very excited about this when I read it, I questioned everything right up until the end when I was amazed by the tiny gems in my pot!! Very simple, 2 heads of fresh garlic cloved and peeled and put into a sauce pot with just enough beef stock to cover them, simmered until all the liquid is gone and just a syrup is left in the pot that coats the garlic cloves beautifully. My book says this will take 15 minutes, mine took 30. Maybe I didn’t have the heat up high enough or maybe I just had too much liquid but I don’t care because my end result is garlic magic that is tender enough to snack on but firm enough to slice into dishes for further cooking. I haven’t used any yet here, it is going to go in at the end when the spinach gets added!
Before we talk about the spinach we need to talk about the mushrooms. Regular white button mushrooms, quartered. We are going to cook these in the pan that we did the leeks and shallots in because it has bits of flavor left in it and we don’t want to waste flavor. For this dish I splurged and got some KerryGold Irish butter so I could get an extra layer of flavor out of my butter layer. I promise we will talk about butter and oil and other cooking fats later. So to start the mushrooms I put 2 tablespoons of butter in the pan and let it get bubbly and used it to scrape up some of the bits from the leeks and things and then I added a splash of white wine and let that simmer the last of the bits off the pan before I added the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and black pepper. I let the mushrooms cook in the wine for about 10 minutes until it was almost all cooked away and then I added about 1/4 cup of the broth and let that simmer down until there was just a syrup of broth and wine and butter in the bottom of the pan to glaze the mushrooms with, like with the garlic! At this point I have been prepping and cooking for a good bit of time so I decide that technology isn’t cheating and put the leeks, shallots and mushrooms in the food processor and pulse it until the mushrooms are just chopped, we don’t want mush.
Now we can talk spinach. My people like it cooked, way down, like a regular pot of greens. I don’t mind a bit of the fresh but this time I am cooking more for them than for me. Into the same pan that the mushrooms just came out of I added 2 table spoons of the fancy Irish butter and a sliced shallot with a pinch of salt and let the shallot go for almost 10 minutes, this one was very fresh and took forever to soften up! So we want the shallot softened up before we add the spinach so that they can be finished at the same time. Yes, I underestimated the amount of spinach I would need, I just got one of those bags of baby spinach? This listed ingredient has now become more of a stir in, topping sort of thing. Had I been thinking that my people like it cooked down more than wilted I would have picked up 2 bags, oh well, adapt and overcome!!
I think I have covered where I am to this point and I am not ready to begin cooking!
This making of the risotto takes at least 30 if not 45 minutes. Of constant attention.