Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Spicy Vodka Risotto with Spinach & Mushrooms

This recipe is what happens when I'm desperate for a creamy, richly flavored risotto.... and I have nary a drop of white wine but a nearly full bottle of vodka.

Prior to creating my spicy vodka risotto with spinach and mushrooms, I had never heard of anyone using vodka in a risotto. But being an adventurous sort in the kitchen (except when it comes to pressure cookers, of which I am terrified), I figured I had nothing to lose by giving it a try especially since I was cooking only for myself. To my relief, delight and gustatory satisfaction, the risotto was not only edible, it was downright delicious -- and Greg can back me up on that as he did try a bite of the leftovers the following day.

A note about the rice: Most people are familiar with arborio rice for risotto. Somewhat less well-known is carnaroli rice, which happens to be what I had in our RV kitchen and therefore what I used. Feel free to use either type of rice, as both are equally good for risotto. While on the topic of ingredients, be sure to use a decent quality vodka that you consider good enough to drink.

Some words of caution: Vodka can burst into flames if added to a very hot cooking vessel. I recommend taking your pot off the burner before pouring in the vodka, and then pouring it in slowly while stirring. Also make sure your kitchen is well-ventilated, as the evaporating alcohol fumes can get intense (at least they did in my tiny RV kitchen, until I opened up some windows). Finally, if you are sensitive to hot and spicy foods, use no more than half the amount of red pepper flakes listed below. On the other hand, if you are a serious chilehead, feel free to add more than the listed amount, or even add a dash or two of ghost pepper powder or dried jolokia chili powder.

3 Tbs olive oil
8 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
Carnaroli Long Grain Italian Rice by Gli Aironi
Click to buy Carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper, chopped
4 oz (half of an 8oz box) brown mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 bag (6 to 8 oz) baby spinach
1 Tbs butter or olive oil
1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 cup vodka
2 1/2 to 3 cups water or broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 tsp sea salt (or Kosher or table salt if that's what you have)
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup (or more to taste) shredded parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion & bell pepper and saute until onion is turning golden and the pepper has softened. Add mushrooms and saute until just softened. Stir in the oregano, thyme and red pepper flakes, then add spinach and cook, stirring frequently, until spinach is wilted. Use a slotted spoon to remove sauteed vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Vodka risotto recipe
Cooking after adding vegetables
Add the Tablespoon of butter or oil to the pot and melt (or heat) over medium heat. Stir in rice and cook, stirring frequently, until rice is coated and turns translucent on the edges with a white spot in the middle (about 3 minutes). Remove pot from heat and slowly pour in the vodka, stirring constantly. Return pot to burner and cook at a simmer, stirring constantly, until almost all the liquid is absorbed, then slowly pour in half a cup of the water or stock. Continue to cook at a simmer, stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add water or stock in half-cup increments, following the same cooking method, until the rice is creamy and almost fully cooked but still somewhat firm in the middle, and reserving 1/4 cup of water or broth for later. Note: Your rice might absorb anywhere from 2 1/2 cups of liquid to 3 cups, or a little more or a little less. Use your judgement and preference for "creaminess vs. chewiness." Don't feel compelled to use all 3 cups of liquid, or worry if the rice absorbs less than 2 1/2 cups before reaching your preferred doneness.

When rice is almost done, stir in the sauteed vegetables along with any liquid remaining in the bowl, and also stir in the salt, black pepper and reserved 1/4 cup of water or broth. Cook and stir until the vegetables are evenly incorporated into the rice and the rice is tender. Add the parmesan cheese and stir until combined and melted. Taste for balance and add more salt and/or pepper if desired. Serve hot. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Zestfully yours,

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