I was just a wee one back then, but I remember when risotto first hit the culinary scene back in the ’80s. It was a revelation to discover that rice could be anything other than the dry white fluffy kind that came with takeout Chinese food. Creamy, rich, main course worthy rice was a novelty that made it worthy of the time spent stirring at the stove. I remember making this dish for guests and, in particular, assigning my young brother-in-law the duty of stirring the pot at the stove. Oh, those heady days when cooking was a novelty, especially when gourmet recipes like risotto entered the scene.
In hindsight, I can’t really say that risotto is that gourmet. It’s a type of short grain rice, for Pete’s sake! But the painstaking method of cooking it with supervision and the often pricey ingredients added to it make it extra special.
As all novelty culinary trends go, I tend to forget about it on a day-to-day basis. But whenever it pops into my awareness I feel the pull to stir, stir, stir the pot of rice. Well, maybe not that exactly. My impulse is to dive into a savory, toothy, creamy bowl of it. Maybe two bowls.
Now that I cook vegetarian, risotto is actually the perfect dish to add to my weekday repertoire, except for two problems. One being the time it takes to stir, stir, stir. The other is that for some mysterious reason our resident vegetarian, Louisa, doesn’t love the dish.
However, once the classic Craig Claiborne recipe for Risotto with Smoked Mozzarella and Escarole popped into my mailbox (I subscribe to the New York Times recipe newsletter), I decided to see if her tastes had changed. After all, how many other things can you cut from your diet once you’ve given up meat?
When I pulled out the recipe last night after returning home late AND taking Pepper for a walk, I was prepared for a lot of time spent at the stove. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that this recipe didn’t require the slow addition of the liquid with lots of stirring. Instead, after the initial preparation steps all of the liquid was added to the rice and then it was left to simmer for about 10 minutes with frequent but not constant stirring. This recipe was so much easier than the ones I remember from those early days.
The recipe was as good as I remembered it could be and the only disappointment was that Louisa still isn’t a fan. Back to the grain bowls for us.