Rice is rice…..right?
For such a staple ingredient, it was many, many years that I held that assumption. Sure, brown rice was brown and maybe a little healthier. Wild rice was a bit different, but all those “white rice varieties” such as jasmine, arborio, basmati, etc… were all really the same. Or so I thought. It was really only a few years ago that I came out of my white rice husk and opened my eyes.
I had never made risotto before and having had it numerous times at restaurants, wanted to re-create the creamy, flavorful dish. So I pulled up a recipe and while I saw it called for arborio rice, I knew that my long grained white rice would do the trick. I filed the recipe and made the risotto and while the rice fluffed up, it wasn’t creamy. The flavors were mostly there but it just didn’t seem like the risotto I’d had before.
A month or two later I decided to try again. After finding no rice in my pantry, I went to the store and decided to buy the rice variety that was called for. Knowing it was just some kind of scam to make rice seem fancy, I went for it anyway.
The arborio rice was short and fat compared to the long thin grains of rice I was used to dealing with. I followed the same recipe and something wondrous occurred – it was creamy. Luscious, even. I know the only change was the rice, so I looked into it a bit more and found how wrong I had been.
A little rice primer (the whole story is at the Huffington Post)
- White rice – A good rice to serve as a side. It can be short, medium or long grained. It fluffs up and if cooked properly does not stick together. It generally does not have much of a taste on its own.
- Basmati – Long grained rice that has a nutty flavor and sweet aroma. It pairs well with strong flavored dishes like curry.
- Brown rice – More chewy than its white cousin, it has a nutty flavor and is rumored to be more healthy for you.
- Jasmine – This rice sticks together well and has a floral aroma.
- Arborio (also Carnaroli and Vialone Nano) – This is the risotto rice. It releases much more starch during a slow cooking process (where liquid is added over time) which gives it the creamy texture.
- Sushi rice – A very sticky white rice.
- Wild rice – Not really rice at all, it is a grain related to grass. It pairs well with rice due to its size and difference in texture (which does not fluff up).
As there are thousands of rice types I did not endeavor to mention all of them, just the more common ones in my neighborhood.
This mushroom risotto was savory, creamy and both perfect and perfectly easy!
I have to admit I cheated a bit, but one that I wholly recommend.
I used Rice Select’s new Arborio Blend with Mushrooms. It has the right risotto rice and also includes some dehydrated mushrooms and onions to bring additional flavor. I could have just stopped with the rice (and water/stock, butter, parmesan) but I decided to go big.
First you cook the rice. Unlike many risotto recipes, you don’t need to add the liquid as you go, just at the beginning. It is a quick and easy risotto. This is my cheat.
As part of my going big, I sautéed some onions until they were just starting to turn translucent. That way the caramelization process had started and the sweet flavor really came out. It was about 6 minutes.
I bought a blend of mushrooms from my local grocer. I added them to the onions and continued to sauté for another 4 minutes. At the end I added about ¼ cup of dry vermouth (you can use dry white wine) to deglaze the pan. Once it mostly bubbles off, remove it all from the pan.
Here is my onion and mushroom blend. You add it to the cooked rice, added butter and a little parmesan (1 tablespoon).
Delicious and soooo easy.
Going Big Mushroom Risotto
1 cup Rice Select Arborio Blend with Mushrroms
3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp butter or oil
1 tbls grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp oil
6-8oz fresh mushrooms (blend), sliced into 1″ or smaller pieces
½ onion, chopped
¼ cup dry vermouth or white wine
Cook rice according to directions.
Saute onion in oil over medium heat until translucent, add mushrooms and cook for 4 additional minutes.
Add vermouth to pan to deglaze and once most of the liquid has boiled off, remove from heat.
Add mushroom blend to rice, add butter and cheese and store. Serve.