Halal and Haram Risotto

The end of the school year often feels like a manic race to the finish line. With so many papers to hand in and finals to take, it’s pretty normal college student behavior to skimp on meals, sleep, and socializing. And then, like magic, somewhere toward the very end perspectives shift. There’s growing recognition that the year is finishing, that so much has happened and (hopefully) been learned in the past few months, and that we’ll all be saying goodbye soon. And suddenly, it becomes more important to make every moment last, to take things slow, to see your friends and enjoy your time with them and squeeze in those last few goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the semester.

Enter the impromptu potluck. One Sunday night, a fellow resident of Villa Jasmin suggested that those who could take a break from studying come together for dinner. And despite (or perhaps, because of) the two finals I had the next week, I decided it would be worth it for me to make one of my favorite meals that I’ve always wanted to prepare myself: risotto.

Risotto is a creamy Italian rice dish, made with arborio rice. The trick to this recipe is patience — you have to slowly add the broth ladle by ladle to make the rice puff up and stick together. I made two versions — I used about 1/4 of my box of rice to make halal risotto and the remaining 3/4 for a “haram” risotto (with bacon and white wine). Both were delicious in their own way, and both followed this basic and infinitely variable recipe.

Ingredients:*

– 2 large onions, sliced

– 5 cloves garlic, minced

– 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped

– 1/2 cup wild mushrooms, chopped

– Bacon, cubed (optional)

– 4 cups arborio rice

– 1 cup white wine (optional)

– 12-14 cups beef stock

– Olive oil

– 2 cups parmesan cheese

*Original recipe is doubled

Step 1: Chop and prep your ingredients.This might include mincing garlic, slicing onions, chopping mushrooms, uncorking wine, preparing beef stock (if you’re using cubes or powder, bring water to a boil but then keep it over low heat. You want the broth to be just-warmed when you add it to the rice, not lukewarm or scalding), etc. As risotto is a very time-consuming process, things tend to go more smoothly when all preparation is done in advance.

Step 2: Sauté onions over medium-high heat, until they turn translucent and start to break down. Add garlic and mushrooms.

Step 2.5: If you’d like to add bacon, move the vegetables over to the sides of the pan to create a hole in the middle. Add bacon and fry until cooked.

Step 3: Add rice. Stir until rice is slightly toasted and every grain is coated in olive oil.

Step 3.5: Though deglazing the pan isn’t necessary (and actually takes away some of the flavors of the onion and garlic), you can add half a cup of white wine (per every 2 cups of rice) if you’d like the boozy flavor. Let the wine simmer until completely evaporated.

Step 4: To quote the original recipe, which explains this next step very precisely:

Begin incrementally adding the warm broth one ladle at a time. Wait to add another ladle until the liquid has been almost completely absorbed by the rice. This gradual addition of liquid is key to getting the rice to release its starch and create its own delicious sauce, so don’t rush this step. Ideally, you want to use just enough broth to cook the rice and no more.

Begin tasting the rice after about 12 minutes to gauge how far it has cooked. Add salt and other seasonings as needed. The risotto is ready when the rice is al dente (when it still has a bit of chew) and the dish has the consistency of thick porridge. If you run your spatula through the risotto, the risotto flow slowly to fill in the space. As the Italians say, risotto should be like “la onda,” a wave that slowly rolls to shore.

Step 5: When the rice is ready, add one last ladle of broth, a drizzle of olive oil, and a cup of parmesan cheese. Stir, and enjoy!

And here’s what other people brought to the potluck:

A salad

Beans and pita

Potatoes

Iced tea

Bread, of course

Lasagna

Another rice dish

Vegetable quiche

Dig in!

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