I’m back on the blog! I’ve neglected this one for too long. And it’s a shame really, because people have asked me for more recipes since I stopped posting than they did before. So I’m going to start posting again, because recipes are in and of themselves creators of stories.
Why this recipe to (re)start with? A lot of people have asked about this risotto. Really, it’s not that difficult. If you can stir a pot, and you know the difference between wet and dry, you can pretty well make risotto. It does require you to stand at a stove for at least 20 – 30 minutes, though. But you’ve probably spent more than that in line for some free item, concert tickets, or to be patted down by security at the ACC. At least you won’t feel nearly as violated.
Making risotto is a sensual experience. You will use your ears, your eyes, your nose (of course), your sense of touch and taste. It’s one of those dishes you must pay attention to, and if you do have ADHD, there’s enough sensory stuff going on to keep you from being distracted. (That’s no joke; my son has ADHD and he could make sense of the risotto AND sing at the same time.)
What makes this slightly different is that I didn’t use parmigiana reggiano. I didn’t even use parmesan. I used…cheddar. Yes. Stop fainting. It’s possible to use cheddar, a good cheddar, in risotto, and not mess it up. It goes with the nuttiness of the shiitakes the way it would on a cheese board with walnuts.
So, without further ado, here you go.
Shiitake Risotto with Aged Cheddar
110g (4 oz) shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced or chopped
2 sprigs green onion, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter, unsalted, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ cups arborio or carnaroli or calrose (short-grain) rice
1L stock, preferably unsalted, heated and kept at a simmer (you can use vegetable or chicken stock, but nothing with a heavy flavour like beef stock or asparagus stock)
¼ cup finely grated aged white cheddar (not the big holes in the box grater, and not the fine holes for hard cheese, but the tiny holes that look like minis of the big holes. Or just use a wood plainer or nutmeg grater)
Salt, to taste (optional)
Chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley (to taste)
Equipment: large skillet, wooden spoon (for the love of all things holy PLEASE use a wooden spoon), ladle with 1/3 – 1/2 cup bowl, cheese grater, and large eyes (optional)*
* I don’t really measure accurately for this recipe. I eye up the size, and so when I say “large eyes”, I mean an overestimate of the size, not so much that a teaspoon is now six tablespoons, but that one tablespoon is about 1 ½ or maybe even 2 by volume. If you’re scared to use your eye, you can use measuring tools and things will still turn out fine.
First things first: are you using a no-stick skillet or a pro-stick skillet? If you are using non-stick, then you will have to be extra vigilant with your risotto, as you won’t be able to hear the sizzle of the stock for as long a time as you do a pro-stick pan. I used a non-stick pan for this because my largest skillet happens to be non-stick. I find I prefer to use a pro-stick skillet for risotto to keep me on my toes, but it’s up to you.
1. Make sure your pot with the stock is on a burner near the burner where you will be placing the skillet. Keep the stock at a simmer or scald (steaming with the slightest bubble) once heated. Never use cold stock for a risotto. (Try it, and you’ll see what I mean.)
2. Heat skillet on medium heat on stove, adding 2Tbsp olive oil and 2Tbsp butter to the pan. When the butter has melted and started to clarify (the milk solids sink to the bottom of the oil) add green onions and stir with wooden spoon to coat. Add chopped mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms have absorbed the oil and butter and onions are translucent (about 2 – 4 min).
3. When oil and butter have been absorbed, add 1Tbsp butter back into the pan. As soon as that butter melts, add all of the rice, and stir to coat the rice in the butter and mix the mushrooms and onions in. When the rice becomes translucent, all of it (this will take about 4 – 5 min of continual stirring), and all of the butter has been absorbed, take a look at your rice. This is what “dry” will look like – no liquid in the bottom of the pan, rice making a slight sizzling sound.
4. Using your ladle, add 1 ladleful (but no more than ½ cup) of stock to the rice and stir it in. It should sound like liquid hitting a hot pan, sizzle sizzle sizzle, until you start stirring. Make sure your rice absorbs all of the stock. It should appear almost dry again, and you will hear whispers, if anything, from your rice. If there is a little liquid left, keep stirring it in. Do figure 8 stirring. Whatever you have to do, but do not…DO NOT…add more liquid until the liquid you’ve added has been absorbed. That’s the key to risotto.
5. Once your rice is dry, add another ladle of stock and stir. Add one ladle at a time. Don’t get cocky and add more than I’m telling you to add. You’ll lose control and end up with something that is inedible. Trust me.
6. So after about the 5th ladleful, just after the liquid has been absorbed – it should take a little longer each time, which means the rice is actually absorbing the liquid, and the pan gets whisper quiet – take a couple grains of rice from the pot with a teeny spoon or fork and bite down. If it’s completely hard, then add another ladleful and keep going. If it’s starting to give, then add a little less than a ladleful of stock. You want the risotto rice to be al dente – not RAW inside, but with a bit of give. At this point, the rice grains should be softish on the outside but a teeny bit crunchy on the inside.
7. After your next stock addition and absorption, check again. Is your rice getting a little softer in the middle but still tough? Good. Add ¼ to ½ ladleful of stock and stir.
8. Once your rice is al dente (which means firm in the middle, not raw, not tough), add the last tablespoon of butter and the grated cheese. Turn off the stove, and stir to melt them in. This is something you would NOT do if you use parmesan or reggiano cheese. You need more heat to mix a harder cheese in. You need less heat for a softer cheese.
9. Once your butter and cheese has been incorporated, taste your dish one last time and add fresh ground pepper to taste. If you need more salt, add a touch more cheese or the tiniest dash of sea salt.
Serve right away. Risotto does not do well if it sits for too long.
So enjoy and let me know how it comes out! Tag me on Instagram and follow me to see what’s going on in my kitchen.