When IÂ’m waxing poetic over risotto I first have to check my pronunciation by saying:
Â“Phil Rizzuto, Rice RisottoÂ”
or IÂ’d pronounce the rice dish as if it were the Yankee shortstop!
In my house risotto was always just rice, if one can describe that creamy flavorful dish as Â“justÂ” anything! It was rice, broth and maybe a little cheese, the starch to accompany a meat and vegetable meal. It was good, but boringly parochial in an oddly exotic, Italian kind of way!
pesto mashed potatoes under rollades of beef stuffed with cheese in Petropolis, the state of Rio de Janeiro
On a recent trip to Rio de Janeiro I was exposed to two dishes that changed the way I think about risotto as a Â“sideÂ” on my plate. The first, for reasons that will become apparent, was pesto mashed potatoes. The pungent basil flavor really elevated the mashed potatoes to new heights. The aromatic and smoothly moist potatoes were delicious. The gray color was off-putting at first, but the rich smell and taste won me over.
Creamy shrimp & cheese Risotto "side" in Paraty, the state of Rio de Janeiro
Then there was shrimp risotto, a cheesy, yellow with pink chunks, side for some fried seafood. It was eye-opening! I came home determined to broaden my risotto horizons. This is what I came up with:
Sausage and Mushroom Risotto (5 main course servings)
Â½ lb. good quality Italian sausage, either bulk or removed from the casings
1 Â½ cups chopped onion (2 -3 onions)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Â½ lb. chopped little bella mushrooms (four whole caps reserved)
1 Â¼ cups Arborio rice
Â½ tsp. dried thyme
Â½ tsp. dried marjoram
Â¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
5 cups low sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
Â½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
chopped parsley or chives for garnish
In a large heavy saucepan sautÃ© the meat about 5 minutes, breaking it up into small pieces with a spoon. Stirring often, add onions & garlic and continue to sautÃ© another 3 or 4 minutes to soften. Add mushrooms and spices and sautÃ© another 2-3 minutes. Add rice, stirring for a minute or two more.
Meanwhile, bring the chicken broth to a simmer, cover - reserve warm, off heat.
Now you have the mixture ready to slowly receive the broth.
Add 1 Â½ cups warm broth to the rice mixture, stirring constantly over moderate heat until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the rest of the broth Â½ cup at a time, stirring until each is absorbed before adding another, until all the broth is incorporated into the rice. It should take 30 minutes or so, resulting in a thick, creamy and decidedly gray mixture. (Remember the pesto mashed potatoes? The flavor overcame the color.) Stir in grated cheese. Salt and pepper to taste (I just added freshly ground black peppercorns.) Remove from heat and cover.
To serve: spoon onto four warm plates, garnish with chopped parsley or chives. Fan-cut the reserved mushroom caps and place one on top of each serving. Plate with broccoli and grape tomatoes.
Prep time 10 minutes, cooking time 45 minutes.
Less than one hour to produce a creamy and rich, sinfully delicious meal without a packaged ingredient in it!
The great thing about this dish is that the sausage flavor will come through while adding very little meat per person (2 oz.) The aroma will be fantastic, and it will finally look good when plated - but - youÂ’ll have to get past the gray color to taste the rich creamy goodness of Sausage and Mushroom Risotto.
1 - If someone in your household doesnÂ’t like mushrooms, delete the mushroom garnish and the word Mushroom from the title. Chop the mushrooms extra fine and theyÂ’ll never know that the complex taste isnÂ’t all sausage!
2 - Make sure everything is chopped and ready to use before you even put the pans on the stove. Once this begins to cook you will be stirring almost constantly. Stop stirring - it sticks - and you might just as well call out for a pizza.
3 - Be sure the spoon is comfortable in your hand. Rounded edges on the handle will make your job so much easier.
WhereÂ’s the fifth serving, you wonder? This dish is so good that reserving some for seconds is mandatory. Serving this could get you arrested, like a crack cocaine dealer. It is that habit-forming. There will be a revolt in the kitchen if there isnÂ’t an additional dollop leftover to soothe the impossibly addicted beasts your friends have become. You have been warned!
PHOTOS - my camera was occupied downloading a few gigabytes of photos while I made and served this meal to two people. So, the next night I Â“stagedÂ” the leftovers and photographed them - in a bowl, not on a plate with broccoli. My camera Â“ateÂ” the photos - the RISOTTO is THAT GOOD! So - on the third night I re-staged the leftovers for these shots taken with my "old" camera. Thank goodness it worked this time, because I ate the risotto after the Â“shootÂ”!
Richard Frisbie, FOOD Correspondent:
RICHARD FRISBIE is published twice a month to Gather Essentials: Food. It is a food junkie's take on growing, raising, preparing and - above all else - eating food. Together weÂ’ll explore the trends, addictions, equipment and regional specialties that make up the sometimes mundane and sometimes sublime cooking and dining experience. You can keep up with my other postings and Gather activity by joining my Gather network -- I look forward to hearing from you.
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BIO - Richard Frisbie writes culinary travel articles, is a columnist for his local newspapers, and is a regular contributor to the many Hudson Valley, Catskill Mountain and other regional New York publications. Online, he writes frequent articles for EDGE publications, GoNomad and Travel Lady, as well as Gather.
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