Treasures From the Wine Department.


“I need a dry red wine for risotto,” I announced to the wine guy yesterday. In less than four seconds I had a good, inexpensive red in my hands.

“This is perfect for risotto,” he said, “And it’s cheap, too.”

Yes, it’s true: I never have to think about my wine purchases. Perhaps it’s a bad thing; whenever I’m required to purchase wine outside the store, I stumble.

Throughout the years, the wine department has been the source of recommendations, vegetable cooking suggestions (it’s right next to the produce department) and recipes. My inaugural try at risotto came with hand-written instructions from one of the store’s wine directors, Patrick. I remember calling the store at least two times as I stirred the rice, just to make sure that I was doing it right.

Last night, I made Wild Mushroom Risotto, utilizing the tips that I learned from Patrick.


The Stock: Whatever liquid you use to fatten up your Arborio rice (chicken stock is my favorite), make sure that you keep it on low heat on a second burner. This takes away some of the shock of cold liquid hitting the rice. I have no idea why, but apparently this is important. Last night’s recipe was vegetarian, but in reality, I prefer chicken stock. And I think that we all know that seafood stock is a no-no.

The Spoon: Again, I have no idea why, but a wooden spoon is a must for risotto.

The Method: After the ingredients are added, it’s best to add spoonfuls of stock into the rice, as needed. I’ve found that this keeps me at the stove top, constantly stirring, which, for risotto, is a good thing. As the rice soaks up the juices, add more. This constant motion is what makes risotto good and is what makes the process relaxing.

The Ingredients: Arborio rice is the key. But there’s also the Parmesan. It’s always, always, always better to buy the chunk of real Parmesan and grate it yourself. Although the prepackaged is more convenient and seems cheaper, in the long run, it’s the freshly grated stuff that tastes better and saves you money.

The recipe I used was, I must admit, okay. The porcini mushrooms were a bit too strong, and – as I mentioned before – I missed the flavors of the chicken stock. The wine, though, was amazing.

p.s. I’ll be working at Lisa’s cooking class later this week, so if I learn more about the process (perhaps the “why’s”) I’ll pass the information along.

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