The last year has been all about change. With the arrival of our little one, everything in life changed. And then jobs changed and even how we spend our free time. I’ve been thinking about change a lot lately and find myself making small changes everywhere these days, even in cooking. And when it comes to food I’m the type of person who wanders grocery aisles to find new products and ideas. When I go on vacation, a must stop is always the grocery store. From trying something completely new to taking a twist on an old favourite, that’s the best part of cooking.
Take risotto for example: I’m used to the way we’ve always made it, like this Asparagus Risotto. Then there’s this knock-out super-traditional and ultra-technical Milanese Risotto. But small changes to either of these recipes can bring you something completely new. So when a pile of mushrooms went on sale at the store, I tried a few new ones that I wouldn’t normally use in Italian cooking, like shiitake, and went to the rice aisle for another small change: carnaroli rice.
You’ve seen me use Arborio rice for risotto, but there’s actually a few other types of Italian starchy rices like carnaroli and Vialone nano. Carnaroli rice is preferred for risotto is some regions in Italy. It is shorter and wider than Arborio, but can be used much the same. Trying it out for this recipe, I found that the grains held their shape more in the end dish, but it wasn’t necessarily creamier than the usual Arborio.
It’s a small change but often that’s how you find your perfect recipe. Like when Nonno started using Yukon Gold potatoes to make colluri, he claimed they made the doughnuts fluffier. A little tweak never hurts (though I wouldn’t change the colluri recipe, ever!). What small change have you made to a recipe only to find it made it even better? Let me know in the comments!
6 cups chicken stock (or 3 mushroom bouillon cubes dissolved in 6 cups of water)
2 cups cannaroli rice
4 cups mixed chopped mushrooms
1 minced onion
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Chop your onion and clean and slice your mushrooms. I’ve used a combination of button, porcini, portobello, oyster and shiitake. The right way to clean mushrooms is to wipe them with a paper towel. I’ll be honest and say I find that ineffective and a lengthy process. I wash them in a colander. I know they absorb some of the water, but I’m going to cook it out anyway and at least I know all the dirt is off in one shot.
Heat your chicken stock in a small pot, leaving it on low. Or, if using mushroom bouillon cubes, add three cubes to six cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce it to low.
In a large, wide pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add in the onion and cook until transparent, 1-2 minutes. Add in the sliced mushrooms and salt lightly. Stir frequently until the water has begun to release from the mushrooms and they reduce in volume to half.
Reduce the heat to medium and add in the rice, stirring constantly as it toasts, about 3-4 minutes. Don’t let the rice brown, but pay attention to the roasting smell that developed to know when to move to the next step.
Add in two ladles of hot stock to the pan – watch out, it will sizzle! – and keep on stirring. Keep the heat on medium and add additional ladles of stock as it evaporates, not letting the pan go dry. Continue this process until all the stock is used and the rice is tender and creamy. The rice is usually ready in 20 minutes. The risotto should be creamy and pour easily onto the plate, not lumpy or sticky. Add more hot liquid if needed to loosen it up.
Remove the pan from the heat and add in the butter and cheese, stirring vigorously. Serve immediately.