Making risotto

Risotto is one of those dishes that should be perfect vegetarian fare, but unless you make it at home, it's not. That’s because restaurant risotto is almost always made with chicken stock (I hope this isn’t news to anyone; it’s always a bummer to find out about one more thing you can’t eat). Chicken stock doesn’t add anything that vegetable stock wouldn’t add, but risotto is made with chicken stock anyway—it’s tradition. (A contact at Taverna, which specializes in risotto, said with a three-day notice they can make theirs with vegetable broth.) Aside from the frustrating fact that it’d be so painlessly easy for restaurants to make risotto vegetarian, here’s another reason why it’s a shame that they usually don’t: Risotto is one of those things that you stand over the range and stir nearly constantly for a good 25 minutes, so by the time it’s cooked, you’ve nibbled on not-quite-cooked rice, you’ve sampled the mushrooms and cheese and white wine and pine nuts and any other goodies that go in or on top of it, and thanks to the broth simmering away on another burner waiting to be added to the rice, your face has had a nice 30-minute-long brothy steambath. In short, by the time the risotto is done, the flavors that went into it are already wearing out their welcome on your senses. Serve it to somebody else and they will worship you for making it and savor every single bite, gazing over at you like you have super powers. Just make the most of this trance—you’ve earned it. And next time, find someone to make this risotto for you at home and enjoy an evening of culinary bliss without any lingering suspicion that your food might have chicken bits in it. Here's my favorite mushroom risotto, which I made last night.

Mushroom Risotto Note that the choice of rice will impact how much broth you need; Arborio will absorb somewhat less broth than Carnaroli. Both are great for risotto-making; Arborio is more widely available stateside, while Carnaroli is the choice for many Italians and is catching on at upper-crust restaurants in the US lately (both are available at Central Market); Carnaroli has a toothsome quality that makes it difficult to overcook. Vegans will want to skip the Parmesan in this recipe; it'll still be good—consider scattering toasted pine nuts over the top instead.

4 cups vegetable or mushroom broth 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup) 8 ounces fresh mushrooms (button, portobello, cremini, or a mix), chopped 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 cup Carnaroli or Arborio rice 1 cup dry white wine 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional) 2 (about) teaspoons white truffle oil (optional but recommended!)

1. Bring vegetable broth to gentle simmer in saucepan. 2. Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute until tender and just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and saute until mushrooms release juices and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. 3. Add rice and stir 1 minute. 4. Add white wine and stir until wine is absorbed. Add 1/2 cup hot vegetable broth and simmer, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed. Continue adding more broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently, until rice is cooked to desired consistency (generally until it's just slightly al dente). 5. Stir in Parmesan cheese and truffle oil, if desired. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and additional truffle oil, if desired. Serve immediately.