Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Winter Weather and Mushroom Risotto


I really thought the winter was over last week right up until the fat, sugary snowflakes of our biggest and prettiest snowstorm of the season came האָפּקענען װי נאָר אױף אַ חתונה hopkenen vi nor af a khasene (dancing as one does only at a wedding). It made me remember one of my favorite Lithuanian words, "dribsniai" (flakes). We had vast lakes of slush at every intersection, but my boots, praise the Lord, remained watertight, and my luxuriant socks warm and dry.
I remember one day like this when I was in high school. I found myself stranded at an intersection with all two hundred seventy degrees blocked by a vast, slushy bog knee deep and yards wide. I was reluctant to muddy my pale suede boots. I would never buy such boots now, but back then I thought they looked pretty swell. I was observed by an amiably drunk lout who said:

Hey baby, no problem; I’ll carry you across!

Now this offer was not in earnest, and I was ready to ignore it with the stony silence I usually used to insulate myself from the whole “hey baby” crowd, but really, there was no other way across the street, and wasn’t about time for someone to call one of these lumps on their swaggering bravado?

All right then, I said.

He was startled, but recovered quickly. My cavalier put his left arm around my back, scooped up my knees with his right, and waded into the icy swamp. It occurred to me that he might drop me halfway across, and I maintained an iron grip around his neck, thinking at least I would not go down alone, but in fact, he could not have been more chivalrous. He set me down gently on the yaboshe and took his leave demanding no further liberties.

The other thing I remember on slushy days is this recipe inspired by my friend Hippo Girl, a wonderful cook but delinquent blogger. Hippo Girl found that you can achieve risotto-nirvana with brown rice if you start with cooked rice and add some kind of starch to the water. I found myself with lots of cooked brown rice and some pasta water and decided this was crazy enough to try. Wow. Brown rice risotto is wonderful and easier than the classical version. I did not happen to have any dried mushrooms on hand, but I am sure they would be welcome here. Normally I would insist that the onions and mushrooms be cut into perfect little brunoise cubes, like the vegetables for this lentil salad, but I am doing one-handed cooking while my hand heals, so I just used the food processor to mince everything.

Brown Rice Mushroom Risotto

6 tablespoons butter (more or less; be liberal)
1 large onion, minced or chopped (I used one onion, two might have been good too)
12 ounces white mushrooms, minced or chopped
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, minced or chopped
6 cups cooked short-grain brown rice
1 cup red wine (or as much as you have left in the bottle)
4 cups pasta water (you might not need to use it all. If you have not recently made pasta, make a slurry of water with a few teaspoons of cornstarch or potato starch)
salt (even though you cooked the rice and pasta in lavishly salted water, you will need to add quite a lot of salt)
Black pepper
4 sprigs parsley, minced, if you have some
any amount of grated parmesan, if you have some
Heat the butter in a heavy kettle, like a Colombian clay pot or something cast iron. Add the onions and simmer over low heat for several minutes until they are soft and transparent. Be patient. Add the mushrooms and raise the heat a little. Continue cooking and stirring as they become dry and fragrant, at least twelve minutes, maybe more. It takes time, but it is not as if you could go out on a day like today in any case. Now add the rice, salt and wine, and stir and cook. As the rice becomes dry, begin adding the starchy water, about half a cup at a time, while continuing to stir and cook the rice. When everything is perfectly done, add some grindings of black pepper. You can serve the risotto as is, or stir in parsley and parmesan.
Have some for breakfast with an egg. Just right.
yaboshe dry land
In Yiddish the word yaboshe refers specifically to dry land in the context of a body of water, for instance the dry land on which the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea.



Blogger Miriam said...

What happened to your hand?

the miam

8:48 AM  
Blogger Miriam said...

oh no! another miriam commenting on this blog?
this could get confusing!

9:02 AM  
Blogger the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...


I fell down and hurt my triquetrum.

9:53 AM  
Blogger Lao Qiao said...

What a sober drunk!

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was wonderful eve.

10:51 PM  
Blogger the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

San Lao Qiao,
Apparently, you don't need to be all that sober to carry someone across the street.



1:12 PM  
Anonymous Lindy said...

Clever! I have messed about with various kinds of brown rice.....brown arborio rice (doesn't break down enough), some brown Japanese special rice that was strangely wad-like,etc. Nothing sucessful so far. Must try this!

1:56 AM  

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