The Trying Game

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I think I make decent risotto. But who the hell knows. The only risotto I’ve ever had is my own. A fundamental reality of living in Charleston is that if you want to eat well here — or any other cracker-assed town for that matter — you better learn to cook. The good news is, I enjoy it. And it sure beats the other 2 options:

1. Eat at the same 4 or 5 places ALL THE TIME. There are good places to eat in this town. Just not very many of them.

2. Throw down big bucks to eat with the coal heirs and doctors in South Hills. Believe me, if I had the cash, I’d consider it. Stuffy atmosphere be damned. If the food’s good, I’ll deal.

And again, option 3: DO IT YOUR DAMN SELF.

Now the problem with this is, if you’re trying to hold yourself to some sort of standard of quality, it’s hard to get it right when you’ve never experienced the standard yourself. My family ate hamburgers and soggy spaghetti slathered with jarred sauce when I was growing up. When we did go out to eat, it was usually someplace Mom had saved coupons for. And last I checked, Pizza Hut still doesn’t serve risotto. But the ‘Hut is hardly alone in that distinction.

But you see where confusion might arise. What if I’m making the culinary equivilant to Durer’s Rhinoceros? But hey, fuck you, I at least get points for trying.

I can say this much — I know for certain that my risotto is better than Gordan Ramsey‘s. Allow me to explain. The whole point of risotto is cooking the rice in such a way that the outer layers of starch melt away to form the most velvety, creamy, silky sauce you’ve ever imagined. But there’s no cream. Butter, yes; cheese, maybe — but no cream. The rice does all the work. It’s the whole point of risotto. To add cream defeats the purpose in a fundamental way. Or. At least that’s what I think.

Ramsey par-cooks the rice, cools it on a sheet pan, then reheats it with cream at the time of service. It’s a major time saving method, and lots of chefs at lots of restaurants do it. And it might taste great. If Gordon makes it, I’m sure it does. But it’s not risotto. If the waiter doesn’t warn you that the risotto takes 30 minutes to prepare, well. I know what I would do.

So. The really great thing about learning how to make risotto is, once you get the method down, it’s a blank canvas upon which infinite variations are possible. The one at that top was mushroom, topped with mushroom.

And here’s one from the vault:

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Butternut squash with pancetta and…dear God, is that fried sage on there? If only I could put the amount of motivation to work in the rest of my life.

FYI, I’ve found that I prefer the flavor of basil to sage with the squash and pancetta.

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3 Responses to “The Trying Game”

  1. Brooke Says:

    Your butternut squash/pancetta risotto looks *really* good. I’m curious if you’ve tried using thyme instead of basil or sage. I recently made a risotto with shrimp, peas and fresh mint. The mint took me by surprise at first as I rarely use it in savory dishes, but it works really well.

  2. Sister Morpheme Says:

    Punkin makes a damn fine risotto too, and we *can* get primo cooking punkins here in the desert. Just be sure to have a primo chunk of Reggiano lurking about, and keep the nice crispy sage leaves. Some high-quality crushed red chile is a nice touch too.

  3. Life the game Says:

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    It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed information. Fantastic read!
    I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

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