Friday, January 8, 2010

Mushroom and Spinach RISOTTO - Restaurant Quality Vegetarian Main Dish

Like Scrooge when he woke up from his "dream", I am keeping Christmas in my heart (my blog) all year long... Or at least it is starting to feel like it. For the last 5 posts, I have been sharing my Christmas Eve dinner. Jackie and I decided to use the opportunity to recreate some memorable dining experiences of our past. Rather than one huge gut busting meal, every hour, we would work on a single dish, share our memories of the motivating experience and enjoy that dish.

Today is a bit of a cheat from my rules. So far, the plan was working very well. Like clockwork, if you will. But today's dish was actually a two parter, and stretched over two hours. Part of the reason I made it a "twofer" has to do with the story behind the dish (which I will get to in a minute, and makes me look like a rube, so you all will enjoy that). Another part was that we took the opportunity to watch a movie instead of cook. "Love Actually", a little bit Christmas movie and a little bit romantic movie. So it still fit into the spirit of the day.

The dish (both parts only takes about 30 minutes to prepare, and can be made at the same time easily, and you betcha is it worth it) was THOUGHT about during the 2 PM hour, but was made to serve with the 3 PM hour dish (which we will cover tomorrow).

I modified a recipe I read on Joanne's site, EATS WELL WITH OTHERS, which you can read her original recipe by clicking HERE. Do take a minute and hang out at her site... Medical school student, cook, VERY active blogger (would be easier to mention the groups she does noy belong to instead of the ones she does)... And also a very entertaining writer... Read my post, comment, then head over to hers. It's worth the look.

OK, let's get started...

As always, first thing to do is to assemble the ingredients.

2 cups red wine (white wine is fine)
6 cups chicken broth
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
30 spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
6 med. size mushroom caps, coarsely chopped
3 cups Arborio rice
2 TBS Olive oil
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste

First - Saute the Mushrooms, onions and spinach together in the olive oil for a few minutes, until cooked, but not OVER cooked. Set this aside while you prepare the "fancy" rice.

Next - In a large heavy pan, add the rice and the wine together. Heat the goop to simmer and stir constantly. It will take about 5 minutes for the rice to absorb most of the liquid. Keep stirring.

Next - Add the broth one cup at a time. Continue to stir until the liquid is absorbed, and repeat adding the next cup of broth til all is absorbed. The Arborio rice will absorb it all eventually. It takes about 5 minutes per cup. Keep stirring.

Finally - along with the last cup of broth, add the set aside Spinach and vegetables and... You guessed it, CONTINUE STIRRING til all the liquid is absorbed. If you like, salt and pepper to taste, but honestly, this dish is so full of flavors, adding salt is not needed. Especially they are not needed if you used salt in making your broth (or didn't specifically buy the low salt broth). When you serve the dish, add some freshly grated Parmesan Cheese!

I have made this dish in the past, using white wine instead of red. Personally, I like the earthier color of the red wine risotto, but there is very little difference in the taste.

BTW, I have a question for you "real" chefs and cooks out there... I know how beer is made, and I know how wine is made. Since during cooking with beer (grains and spices) and wine (vegetables (grapes) and spices), the alcohol in them cooks out, aren't you really just using a different type of vegetable stock? Is it conceivable that any recipe that calls for vegetable stock could be made with beer or wine? sure it would taste different, but what would the reasoning be to not change the ingredients? It is part of a project I am going to be working on, so any opinions you might have, let me know.

And now, as promised, a story that makes me look like the country bumpkin that I am...

This is a true story...

You have all seen the ice skating rink at Rockefeller Center, The foreground image in most views you have seen of the famous Christmas tree. It is one of the classic, quintessential images that says New York City during the holidays.

While I now live in and love Kansas, when I first moved to Kansas, I was coming from a year of living in Manhattan. It was a bit of a culture shock, and I needed an occasional trip back just to keep my subway skills honed. I used major holidays as an excuse to vacation with Jackie. We happened to be in NYC on an Easter Sunday. So, I used the excuse to buy a new hat, and parade my wife up the Avenue... 5th Avenue (old folks are humming along right now, and you kids have no idea... but I digress). We walked from our hotel to attend mass at St. Patricks Cathedral. I was showing off a bit to Jackie, and had another "tourist" event planned for brunch...

There is a restaurant eye level with the skaters. I thought this would be a terrific place for us to have lunch. The skaters were still out, and the view was perfect. This was one of our first trips together, so I was trying extra hard to impress Jackie. She loved it...

And then we ordered. Now, I have been to plenty of restaurants, and ordered many interesting items. But, there is still a great deal of that little farm area boy from Pekin, Illinois inside me. Until I read the menu that day, I had never heard of risotto. But, the menu made it sound wonderful... Rich, thick, full of flavors, and complete with spinach, mushrooms and onion. It was offered as a vegetarian main course, but had an option for a LAMB RISOTTO. I figured in the spirit of Easter, I would be happy to have a baby sheep slaughtered for my pleasure. The meal came. I was expecting a leg of lamb, or a couple racks of lamb... heckfire, when I saw what I got, I would have been happy with some gyros meat. Instead, I got almost exactly what I described above, but with maybe a couple tablespoons of diced lamb. It was almost impossible to find the meat. In my innocence, I pointed this out to the wait staff, and I was informed that this was, in fact, the perfect way to serve lamb risotto. Sigh... Nothing wrong with the dish, it was exactly as advertised, it was just not what I expected. I think that was the first time I really and truly knew that I was more Kansas-an than Manhattan-ite, and always would be.

The punch line to the story, we enjoyed our meal together, enjoyed the skaters, I did very much like the taste of the risotto, but after spending $35 a plate (For rice... $35 - I sure wasn't in Kansas anymore), when I left, I was still hungry. So, we walked up the Avenue again (yes, still 5th Avenue if you are still humming along), to Central park, where I promptly enjoyed a Hot Dog from a vendor. And that's the story of our $35 (Hot Dogs were $2.25 back then, so actually $37.25) hot dog and rice brunch.

Oh how we laughed...

Just in case you aren't paying close attention, I am posting my Christmas Eve dinner with my wife. We decided to recreate our culinary journey through restaurant quality meals. So far, you have missed...
Come back tomorrow to see what we did at 3 PM and see how we topped the risotto!


  1. I loved your journey through New York City with Jackie and I did hum a bit to Easter Parade. I am a fan of Risotto and I like your recipe. I love your hour by hour posting of what you and Jackie prepared. Blessings to you both. P.S. Please be careful shoveling all that snow! Catherine

  2. A trick I learned in a cooking class I won in a cook-off.. cooking with wine with the thought of reducing it gets the alcohol out of it, but has a distinct flavor. I have gotten into the habit of adding a touch of wine after cooking, which really is a more pronounced flavor- in a good way!

  3. I also love Risotto! Its darn near the top of the comfort food chain for me! I use the one in Cooking Light magazine, the recipe with the Vadalia caramelized onions.

    The New Your Trip looked so fun! I used to love to visit NY, but now I guess I'm spoiled and miss my beach chair in Jamaica and the soft soothing sounds of the ocean if I had my choice.

    We ate at an amazing restaurant last night... "Strip Steak" at Mandalay Bay. The chef sent over a complementary appetizer. It was duck fat fries... Yeah, they fried the fries in duck fat... Oh man Dave.. They were fantastic. I took a photo and I'll try and post it some time...

    Hubby is going to the Electronics show today... I wasn't able to get a badge so I can't get in :(. Just as well... I am going out on an adventure here as soon as I finish my coffee. I'm going to take one of those double decker busses and hop on and off and visit some casino's I haven't been to before... and explore and hope I don't get lost! I got lost in Australia one time! Guess I was on a walk-about! Anyway... I'm rambling in your comment section!
    Rainey Rockin Vegas

  4. Fortunately I caught your request. I haven't yet put the recipe on my blog because it appears in so many places, but do a Google search on Moomies Buns and it will point you to an incredible recipe for hamburger buns. The recipe is really easy to do. This is the one I would use.

  5. I've never attempted to make rissoto because I've always seen Top chef shows where its not cooked right. Yours looks great.

    I have to agree with the beer/wine comment being a replacement of stock. I am no expert, but I do think you can add that in place sometimes and it will taste awesome! Let us know how that works out!

  6. Oh man....LOVE spinach and mushrooms...that looks amazing! I need to cook actual dinners more :)

  7. That was so cool - I felt like I was there too.

  8. That was a very sweet story. You are the story teller!

  9. What a yummy risotto and fabulous Christmas meal you had!

    Loved your story too :) I think it's a good thing you had room for a hot dog - I have to get one every time I'm in NY!

  10. haha! those cheaters, i think they should have just given you your risotto with a leg of lamb. funny story. i love the look of that risotto you made though, i LOVE risotto!

  11. What a great day you must have had, cooking, eating, cooking, reminiscing.

    As far as the stock vs. wine's a taste thing. You have to decide what you want dish to taste like. A combination of both might be the best.

  12. Great dish but more importantly, thanks for dishing that story. Priceless!

  13. Huge risotto fan - but you are right - $35 for a plate of rice has always appalled me and I would much rather make it at home.

  14. Farm girl from Ohio here and I would have made the exact same mistake. What a cute story.

    Risotto... YUM, just YUM!

  15. We are huge risotto fans. For what its worth I reduce the wine in mine. I hope you got my earlier message.

  16. Great risotto recipe! And a great story, too. I don't think *anyone* would expect $35 for a plate of rice. :) Even if it does have a few tablespoons of lamb in it. But then, I'm from the South, so no surprise that I'd think that!

    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen
    Mystery Writing is Murder

  17. I'm not a fan of risotto since I don't really like rice, and $35 dollars? Holy fartballs!

    Love, Actually is one of my favorite movies. I laugh and cry each time I watch it.

  18. What was the dominant flavor of your dish ? Wine or something else ? As far as I know, cooking with wine does NOT burn off the alcohol, or at least not entirely.
    I would, without a doubt, pay the 35 dollars for a properly cooked risotto, just like Emeril Lagasse asks $50 for a steak at one of his restaurants in Vegas just because he knows that his steaks is worthy of such a price. If you haven't tasted it, let me tell you it is WORTH it.

  19. That Risotto looks amazing! And your Christmas Eve was just fabulous! Enjoyed the tour of New York, too! But that Spinach Salad is off the charts, cher ami! Divine! Cheers!

  20. Love risotto! So creamy and delicious. hmm...although you get rid of the alcohol by cooking but it leaves a very distinct taste that you won't get from stock.

  21. I have got to try making this dish! Every season, while watching Hell's Kitchen, I am so interested in making it and tasting it. But the cooks are always messing it up, which makes me a little nervous about it. I looks wonderful.
    PS...funny about the crush on Susan:)

  22. Hello. Thanks for passing by my blog. Your risotto looks lovely. I really like the colour that the red wine gives to the rice.
    I've never tried Mushroom + spinach so when i have some time available i'll sure will.

  23. I must try this risotto recipe soon, looks so yummy. Thanks for this great story you shared too.

  24. Oh my gosh, $35 for a rice dish that disappointed you. I have never made risotto, but it's on the to do list.

    A Perfect Bite recommended Moomie's Burger Buns. I've made those a couple of times, they are pretty good. If you care they're on my blog. They're a King Arthur Flour recipe and they have it on their site. If you're interested in baking, they have the Baker's Circle which is a forum of some really fab cooks, devoted, of course, to baking. Free to join, lots of wonderful member recipes, experienced/professional cooks to answer questions.

  25. Love Actually is one of my favorite movies! I can see why you took a time out for it.

    Thanks SO MUCH for the shout-out. And all of the super nice things you said. You are an awesome blogger. Seriously. Truly. And I'm always impressed by the different "features" you have on here. They always leave me wanting to come back tomorrow to see what you're going to do next.

    the risotto looks fantastic!

    I hate it when restaurant meals are super expensive for no apparent reason. Typical in New York. Sadly but truly.

  26. Dave, you are one crazy dude.

  27. I love how you relate incidents! Lovely story!! I enjoyed reading every bit.