My risotto brings all the boys to the yard.
I don’t know what they do when they get there. I guess they probably beat me up and take my risotto. Which is a really sad and violent end to this whole affair, but that’s just how my risotto is. It’s that good. How can you not love food that invites tragedy?
It’s autumn, which for me is the Time of Risotto. I don’t know why. Risotto is comforting. I like to make a pillow out of it and just rest my head upon it, quietly napping in fifteen minute intervals, then waking up to take a few bites before I lay my head down upon the gummy ricey goodness once more. Sure, sometimes I’ll have sex with it. That’s okay. Nothing wrong with that. Don’t judge me.
You eat this risotto, you’ll understand.
The risotto we are going to make today is:
MUSHROOM BUTTERNUT SQUASH APPLE RISOTTOPALOOZA.
Or, to combine: MUSHNUT SQUAPPLE RISOTTO.
“Mushnut Squapple” is also the alias I use when checking into hotels. Because otherwise I’m mobbed by fans. Mobbed by them! They tear at my hair. They punch me. They make me eat dirt. Those are “fans,” right?
Your oven — aka, your Culinary Hell Chamber — well, turn that sumbitch on to 425F.
Onto a cookie sheet, you’re going to want to lay out: one cubed apple, one cubed butternut squash half, and two diced shallots. By “cubed,” I don’t mean “giant Rubik’s Cube chunks of food.” Don’t be an asshole. I mean little cubes. Dicey cubes. Cubes the size of a six-sided die or smaller.
Make sure those are shellacked with olive oil, salt, pepper, a little garlic, and the dreams of seven sleeping panda bears. (These are easy to procure if you have an Asian market nearby.)
Lay out on the cookie sheet. Punish them in the Hell Chamber.
Such punishment should take about 20 minutes. So they get soft and the teeniest-bit brown.
In the meantime, mushrooms.
No, we’re not fucking around with the risotto, yet. That needs your full attention. The risotto is like a needy child. You don’t watch the risotto, the risotto will turn on you. It’ll draw on the walls in crayon. Poop in the flower box. Kill and eat the cat.
The mushrooms I use for this are either maitake or shitake mushrooms. Maitake mushrooms are “hen-of-the-woods.” Shitake mushrooms are “shit-hats in the woods.” I think I have that right?
Ooh, couple quick random facts to interrupt the recipe:
First, there exists a mushroom called “chicken-of-the-woods,” which is different from “hen-of-the-woods.” Chicken-of-the-woods, when diced and cooked, actually looks like cooked chicken. And, even weirder, it tastes like cooked chicken if that chicken were spritzed with lemon. It is the trippiest thing.
Second, in this household we refer to piles of poop — like, say, ones left by the dog — as “Elmo Hats.” This will surely backfire as one day our toddler tries to place an Elmo Hat on top of Elmo’s head. But for now, we like the image it provides. We have a good time here. Even at the cost of poor Elmo’s reputation.
Back to the recipe.
Cut your mushrooms into strips. Then, into a hot pan with butter. (MMM BUTTER.) The mushrooms are greedy motherfuckers and will soak up all that butter so you’re free to add more if it all disappears. A little salt, a little pepper. Five minutes in, splash a quarter-cup of sherry in there. And, if you’re a fan of dairy, two tablespoons of heavy cream on top of that.
No, that’s not what I mean by “heavy cream.” Pants on, El Freak-o.
Another three to five minutes and your mushrooms should be soul-jizzingly delicious.
Now, you could stop here. You could take the roasted veggies, pair them with the mushrooms, and just… shove that stuff in your mouth. You would be happy. But we’re not aiming for “happy.” We’re aiming for “motherfucking ebullient, motherfucker.” AKA, “MEM.”
Getting to #mem means we need to level up this meal.
And that means it’s risotto time, you bastards.
Here is how I roll with risotto:
Fuck white wine. White wine isn’t where it’s at. White wine doesn’t have the teeth for it.
I use Irish Whisky.
Okay, not really.
I use dry white vermouth.
So, you want that out and ready to roll. You also want… mm, three cups of Your Favorite Stock (I like chicken, but your mileage may vary with turkey or veggie stock). And this stock should not be cold. It should be warmed up a little bit, like, say, in your microwave (aka your Nuclear Food Cube). You want all that out.
Now, rice selection, duh, it’s “arborio” rice.
Get a pot. Over medium-high heat. A pad of butter goes in. Melts. Foams up. Foams down. Time to add one cup of rice into the not-so-foamy — and, oh, unsalted — butter.
Stir. Get it buttery. You don’t want the rice browned, just slathered in butter.
Now, time to get that rice drunk, son.
One cup of vermouth into the mix. Sploosh.
Here is, of course, the trick to risotto: stirring like a crazy person for the next twenty minutes. Get a good long spoon — wooden if you have it — because you’re going to be hovering over your risotto like flies over garbage. … okay, that’s not a really attractive image, is it? What else hovers? IT HOVERS LIKE GOD JUDGING ALL OF US MEALY-MOUTHED SINNERS. Better, I guess.
Stirring the risotto is what makes it sticky and creamy (“Sticky N’ Creamy” was what they called me back in my boy band days). It releases, I dunno, atoms of starch or something. What am I, a scientist? Shut up. Imagine that it’s like one big marathon masturbation session — you just gotta go to down on this thing.
So, vermouth into the pot. It’ll boil up. Reduce heat to med-low.
And, uhh, stir.
Don’t let it get stuck to the bottom of the pot.
You do that, you’ll ruin everything. And then your dinner guests will hate you. One of them will stab you with the broken stem of a wine glass. That someone will be me.
So, stir, stir, stir, until the wine is absorbed.
And then, from that point on, just keep adding stock a little at a time — just enough to cover the rice.
Then, stir, stir, blah blah blah, stir, until the stock is absorbed.
Like I said, this’ll take about three cups of stock. Ish.
Somewhere after the first cup and a half, I like to add another splash of vermouth. INTO MY MOUTH. And then also into the pot, fine, whatever, I CAN QUIT ANYTIME. Goddamn, you people. So judgey.
This will go on for about 20 minutes.
Toward that time, start tasting the risotto.
It should have a bit of a bite to it — you don’t want it so soft it’s gluey. But you also don’t want to be crunching down on a plate full of uncooked rice, delicious as that sounds.
Right at the end, mix in your roasted vegetables and mushrooms. Don’t add cheese. Don’t add cream or milk or anything. It’s creamy-as-is. Or, should be, unless you fucked it up like you fucked up all your relationships and career choices. (Don’t think I don’t know.)
Bring a weapon, because you will have to defend yourselves from all the boys who will enter your yard to steal your yummy-ass risotto.