Rainy days get so old after almost two weeks of constant rain in the forecast. Even worse is trying to bike to work on the regular and deciding whether to take a chance on the supposed 60% chance of rain or whether to bus it (only to bus home in sweltering weather and wishing for the breezy bike ride rather than the rank bus ride). And of course coming home after a wet bike ride is not fun. That kind of weather begs for comfort food, naturally. Thank goodness this week seems to be getting better weather.
What did I find?
I went on a recipe search last week, realizing that while I love reading recipe blogs for inspiration, I have a whole shelf full of it in my kitchen; my poor unused cookbooks. I decided to pull one out in particular, Everyday Italian, because Giada De Laurentiis was one of my favourite chefs to watch on the Food Network (until she got super famous and wasn’t doing simple cooking shows anymore). I also pulled this book out in particular because I remember it was a gift from my Mom who told me that she couldn’t wait for me to try some of these recipes, and of course I’ve never tried a single one since she gave it to me in 2007 (I know that specifically because she even wrote an inscription in the front cover for me… love you Momma!).
What did I change?
Having only ever cooked risotto one other time before (once upon a time…), and having botched that up terribly, I thought carefully about what things I’d want or need to change. First, this is a mushroom risotto which calls for all kinds of gross but “fancy” wild mushrooms, so I subbed all those mushrooms in the recipe for simple white button mushrooms. I was confident in the flavour combo of regular mushrooms and onions. Yum!
Next, I substituted the wine for apple cider vinegar. I didn’t have any white wine, or red for that matter, so I used almighty Google to find some alternatives, and was told that flavoured vinegars, watered-down, could be used instead. Hmm… more on that later. Furthermore, arguably the most important part of risotto is the rice itself, and I chose to use brown instead of white, to try to make things at least seem healthier. Also, more on that later.
Finally, the cheese. I was devastated to learn, halfway through the cooking process, that we didn’t have any parmesan cheese left. So I subbed for Havarti.
Oh, and I also used way more garlic than it called for… but that’s normal right? I mean, everybody does that, right? Ahem…
What did I learn?
So, that little tidbit I found that recommended substituting watered-down vinegar for wine… yeah, um, no. I can’t speak to other kinds of recipes, but in a recipe that falls back so heavily on the liquids used to cook the rice, like in risotto, I learned that this substitution just doesn’t work. And I think my choice to used apple cider vinegar specifically was the wrong call; this added a weird touch of sweetness that didn’t fit. So lesson of the day here is, always keep a bottle of white wine in the house! And red for that matter…
Also, the whole brown rice thing; I’m convinced now, after having cooked risotto twice, that people who claim it can be made in under half an hour are just playing with the rest of us. That’s not very nice, Giada! Granted, brown rice takes longer to cook, but this dish took me an hour to make, so don’t be fooled by the sweet words or the pretty pictures. Risotto takes time… and that’s what makes it so creamy and good; at least in theory. So I eventually used a lid to help the brown rice along, though luckily I had extra time.
Finally, I wouldn’t say I learned this here specifically but the notion was definitely reinforced, that dishes that call for parmesan cheese need a cheese with kick; parmesan isn’t any old cheese after all. It’s in your face with its funky smell and sharp flavours! Havarti is far too mellow to take the place of a cheese like parmesan.
Don’t get me wrong; overall, this dish was good. My husband and I devoured it because it was creamy and delicious. It just wasn’t as creamy and delicious as it could have been… and that’s why I need to make it again! With all the correct ingredients! Sometimes things need to be left alone.
Except for the mushrooms… phooey to “fancy” wild mushrooms. I’d rather use button mushrooms any day! I served this with roasted chicken (stick it in the oven and forget about it – so easy!), and some steamed broccoli. Delish!
Have you ever made risotto? Do you enjoy Giada’s shows?