Risotto: a tragedy in two parts
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 Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.
For my first daring cooks challenge, the hostesses, Eleanor and Jess selected risotto as the recipe of the month: including making stock from scratch and using that to create the risotto base. This base, which is the risotto and onion cooked in your broth, can then be added to with infinite flavors – a huge variety of creations made by all the daring cooks, well as the recipes we were given, can be found on the daring homepage
Before I tell you about my two risotto recipes I’m going to have to explain where the tragedy of the post title comes in so you don’t all gnaw off your arms in suspense. I often cook a lot on a weekend and prepare batches to take into work for lunch or to have for dinner during the week, or even to freeze for later. (Risotto is best when eaten immediately, but I’ve found if you warm it up, add butter and a bit of stock and then eat, its almost as good as new.) Anyway, last weekend Noerah came over to take photos of the big batch of food I’d finished cooking which included these two risottos.
I happen to co-own the brownstone I live in and right now the downstairs unit is between tenants (it is what would traditionally be the “owner’s unit” if the owner hadn’t spent so much money renovating it that she couldn’t afford to stay there!). I decided a vacant apartment would make a perfect studio for our little photo shoot so we dragged down dishes, pots, props and set up to take photographs. By the end of the day I was exhausted: and further more there was no space upstairs in the tiny fridge, so I left the food downstairs thinking I’d just pack it up the following evening for work and eating. And so all day monday I was anticipating going home to some really great dinner. But when I opened the fridge it was bare: just a sad bunch of cilantro and no pots, bowls or dishes at all.
Turns out the guys who had come to paint the apartment had decided to “clean” the kitchen as well. It might just be a sign of my general mental state but that really finished me off, I had a little weep. Then I realised, its no use crying over spilled risotto and I more or less pulled myself back together. The thing that really freaked me out was that some of the dishes were borrowed from melissa’s collection of vintage and tag sale finds and were, probably, totally irreplaceable. Despite digging through trash bags I could find no evidence of any of this crockery. It was with a huge snense of relief that I walked into the building two days later to find a pile of dishes in the hall where the painter had left them for me. With that crisis averted I could, almost, look back on the horrible food waste without breaking into sobs!
And now, if you can stand to see what got thrown out: my preserved lemon and mushroom/truffle risottos:
One of the recipe suggestions was a very simple risotto with preserved lemons. Luckily for me, I still had some lemons left from my january can jam. The finely chopped lemons are added along with butter and parmesan to the risotto base, creating a delicate flavor, which despite the totally minimal ingredient list has some complexities of flavor from the fragrant lemons which play off the rich creaminess of the risotto.
Our farmer’s market has some really gorgeous looking mushrooms so I decided to do a second risotto with mushrooms, and then to make myself feel special, I added some truffle oil and shaved truffle. It is my belief that everything is better with truffle oil, the smell makes me swoon, so I was pretty happy with the results.
My only complaint is that the broth was pretty bland — I know that a good broth, despite sounding simple, is a real challenge and the mark of a good cook so I guess I’m just going to have to practice.