When I'm feeling contemplative or morose, or when I just need some "me-time," I make risotto. There's something about that peaceful stirring and watching, ladling and absorbing, that makes the kitchen experience very zen for me. Risotto has an undeserved reputation for being difficult and time-consuming. It isn't! It does require your rapt attention, but only for 30-40 minutes, and that time can be a peaceful respite from whatever's going on.
And at the end, you have the ultimate comfort food.
This one I made last night was particularly incredible, loaded with apples, chanterelle mushrooms, turkey bacon, and gorgonzola cheese. The different flavors played off each other so well, and gave the dish a variety of textures to offset the lovely creaminess we all love in a risotto.
I failed to get a picture because Keith and I devoured it as soon as it was ready. Oh well, risotto isn't all that photogenic anyway. But it sure is delicious! I offer this recipe now in case anyone else needs a few minutes of kitchen P&Q and a warm autumn comfort dish.
INCREDIBLE AUTUMN RISOTTO
(serves 2-4, depending on your side dishes)
2 strips turkey bacon (or pork, if that's your thing)
4 cups good-quality chicken or vegetable broth
3 Tbsp butter, divided
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup finely-sliced mushrooms* (about 1.5-2 oz, see note)
1 cup apple, peeled and finely diced
1 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine
Scant 1/4 cup gorgonzola or bleu cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Salt to taste
*Note: Use the best mushrooms you can get. I got a good deal on chanterelles, which are normally pretty expensive but you only need a couple ounces so you can splurge. If you can't get a few chanterelles, then go for shiitakes or baby bellas, just don't use the cheap white ones - and for the love of G-d, don't use canned! Good mushrooms will really make a difference here.
Fry the bacon in a deep, heavy dry skillet until mostly cooked on both sides. While it's frying, add broth to a medium-sized saucepan and bring it to a low boil. Once it's boiling, cover it and lower the heat so it stays at a nice low simmer.
When the bacon is done, drain it and wipe out the skillet if necessary (it won't be necessary with turkey, it will be with pork). Chop the bacon into little pieces and set aside.
Turn the heat under the skillet to medium-low and melt 2 Tbsp butter in it; add the onion and saute until the onion begins to soften. Add the bacon and mushrooms, and continue to saute for another minute or two, until the mushrooms soften a little; add the apple and the rice, and saute another minute or two. Pour in the wine and stir until the wine is mostly absorbed.
Now we get into that peaceful risotto action. Ladle in about a half-cup of the simmering broth (I use a soup ladle), then stir slowly until the rice absorbs it. Ladle in another half-cup of broth, and stir until it's absorbed. Continue in this fashion until you're out of broth; this will take about half an hour. Pour yourself a glass of the white wine you just used and sip it while you stand and stir. Play a little music. Think about life. Enjoy your peace.
When you're out of broth, the rice should be cooked through and your risotto should look nice and creamy. If you still need to cook a little more, use water or more white wine (a half-cup at a time, just like the broth) until the rice is done.
When it's ready, add the remaining tablespoon of butter, the grated or crumbled cheese, a little salt, and the nutmeg. Stir until it's all melted and blended together, then serve immediately. You'll probably want a light salad or a little something green to go on the side, so hopefully you already made it, or had someone else make it.
Enjoy your bliss, preferably with some fuzzy socks and a crackling fire.