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Risotto: a tragedy in two parts

March 14, 2010

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.

-by Talia

27 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2010 12:35 pm

    omg that is a complete tragedy! I can’t believe people would actually do that without asking!! I’m glad you were able to recover the dishes though! FWIW, the risotto looks great!

  2. March 14, 2010 12:37 pm

    Truffle risotto and you couldn’t eat it that is a tragedy sorry to hear about the ‘troubles’ over this challenge but at least the dishes were returned and the painters had a great meal LOL LOL and it does sound like you were much more worried about the dishes at the end. Both versions look stunning but of course the truffle one is my favourite. Hope the lower flat get leased out soon. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

    Very professional looking photographs I really like the first one a lot. Yours Aud

    • March 14, 2010 2:49 pm

      Audax, Talia will reply to your comment, but I (Noerah) would like you thank you for your comment on the photos. I just started taking a food photography class and I am all excited to experiment on Talia’s food. I will be posting my experience with the class later in the week. Stay tuned! -Noerah

  3. March 14, 2010 2:24 pm

    you poor thing. are you sure they put it into the bin? or did they just eat it because it was so delicious looking?
    still welcome and congratulations to your first challenge, you did amazing.

  4. March 14, 2010 2:57 pm

    OMG, I can’t believe all the food was gone!!!! So glad you got the crockery back at least. Congratulations on your first DC challenge. Hopefully, you’ll be able to enjoy more of the results next time!

  5. March 14, 2010 3:41 pm

    Noerah, I’m jealous of your food photography classes…and these pics are really great.

    Talia, I am sooooo glad you got the dishes back, but totally know how you feel with the food disappearance, one good thing is that the pics are so good, that you can almost taste them! I’m almost ready to crack my jar of preserved lemons, I snuck a smell the other day and they are fantastically floral, so I’m so happy you keep using yours to inspire me!

    • March 14, 2010 3:47 pm

      Thanks Rebecca! I am having a great time photographing anything I can get my hands on. The good thing about food is that it doesn’t move (unlike my cats)! -Noerah

    • March 14, 2010 5:59 pm

      Rebecca: I’m glad your lemons are nearly ready: you are in for a real treat: can’t wait to see what you do with them!

  6. March 14, 2010 5:18 pm

    I would have cried, too. It looks lovely, but let’s pretend it tasted awful (wink).

  7. March 14, 2010 5:54 pm

    Thank you all for the moral support: I feel much better! Its great to be part of the DC — a cooking challenge and food tragedy support group!! I think I’m going to be ready to make them again soon.

    To answer the questions: I think they actually just threw it out, really… crazy but true!
    And we got a tenant for the downstairs flat — their lease starts tomorrow actually, so its good news there (though I did like pretending we had a real studio for a while!).

  8. March 14, 2010 7:01 pm

    The photos are GORGEOUS! And the truffle risotto looks absolutely luxurious. Great job–hope you at least got to enjoy a great lunch before the tragic ending…

    • March 16, 2010 9:04 am

      Thanks for the compliment on the photos. We had a great time shooting. We did get to enjoy the food before it was thrown out.

  9. Emily permalink
    March 14, 2010 7:09 pm

    What a pity! I commend your restraint as well – doing all that photographing but not eating the food until the next day! Impressive. Love the pics, the risotto looks great, am sure it tasted wonderful too!

  10. March 14, 2010 9:40 pm

    Thanks Emily & balsamicandbasil: Noerah has been doing such a great job w/ the photos it makes it especially fun to cook!
    and i did get a little taste while doing the photos: and i always taste when I cook so that was good!

  11. March 14, 2010 10:06 pm

    I love how you used natural light in your pictures. Both versions look delicious! Too bad they got thrown out, but at least you got back the dishes

    • March 15, 2010 9:03 am

      Thanks! It was amazing to me how much difference the good light makes: its fun watching Noerah work with it to make the food look tasty!

  12. March 15, 2010 8:56 am

    Well, at least they clean up after themselves. It sounds delicious too–this is about the 20th reminder recently that I need to make a new batch of preserved lemons. The fates are really hitting me over the head with it!

    Marcella Hazan has a risotto with just celery, basically. I made it once upon a time to use up a glut of celery and wasn’t expecting much (rice and celery?), but it was surprisingly good!

    • March 15, 2010 9:02 am

      I will definitely look up the celery risotto recipe: I always land up needing one stalk of celery and then not knowing what to do with the rest of the bunch!

  13. March 15, 2010 10:19 am

    Oh! Tragedy indeed!
    I’m lusting after that mushroom & truffle risotto. Ever since my first taste of black truffle, I can’t get enough of their amazing earthiness! I’m thinking my next batch of risotto might have to be along those lines!

    • March 15, 2010 10:24 am

      I know – truffles are just the best. From what I understand they smell like pig pheremones – which is why the boars will hunt for them… which just makes me wonder why we humans are so attracted to the smell. (although, now that i think about it, i’ve been attracted to various questionable males of my own species so this should not be a suprise!)

  14. Sarah permalink
    March 16, 2010 5:49 am

    oh no! that is a tragic story…i’m not sure if it would have been better if they had eaten the food or not. so glad to hear you have a tenant for the building, and that the dishes were returned.

    the risotto sounds amazing – truffles…yum….and the photos are great!

    • March 16, 2010 8:28 am

      there was definitely a part of me that was offended that they didn’t eat it all! i know if you’d been doing the cleaning you would not have made that mistake: thats why i miss your cleaning!

  15. March 17, 2010 12:21 pm

    Oh no! That’s so sad that you didn’t get to eat this. But don’t worry, now you can make it again, with a better tasting stock! It looks fantastic and I love risotto with mushrooms.

    • March 17, 2010 1:58 pm

      You are right: I definitely need a good reason to force me to work on my stock making!

  16. March 18, 2010 12:12 pm

    Oh no!!! I can’t believe they felt so “at home” and helped themselves w/ the risotto=;) I’m just curious..not thank you note?!!! Your second risotto w/ truffles omg!!! I have yet to try tuffles even the infused one.

    • March 18, 2010 3:13 pm

      Oh, you are in for such a treat when you try truffles… they are the best!
      And no,, no note… by the end I was just so happy to have the dishes I forgave them for the food!

  17. March 22, 2010 7:30 am

    I’m so sorry you suffered that setback after taking those beautiful photos, but it’s a testament to how delicious your risottto turned out, considering they didn’t leave you one grain! (I’m shocked, as why wouldn’t they ask first??) They both look amazing!

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