a good hover

Tomato Risotto cropped
I try not to hover in the kitchen. Really I do.

If you ask me how I would like that onion cut, I'll muster everything I've got to force out a breezy, "However you see fit. It doesn't matter." I want so badly to mean it. But truth be told, it does matter. A lot. And after a beat or two, it all comes rushing out: "But how about you slice it like this?" I cloak my command in the garb of an innocent suggestion, question mark and all, but who am I kidding? My voice burbles and brims with that special brand of panic that plagues anal retentive hoverers everywhere. To make matters worse, I - as casually as possible, mind you - then slip the knife out of your hand and into my own, and demonstrate. (A wince-worthy moment, every time.) No doubt, you are perfectly capable of following a simple verbal instruction. Something tossed off and to the point, like, "Thinly sliced, please," would probably do the trick. But your definition of "thinly sliced" may not be precisely my definition, so why risk it? Oh dear. Nonchalance just isn't my strong suit. In the kitchen (and, I fear, in other rooms as well), I'm a bossy little thing. So let's face facts: Ladies and gentlemen, I am a hoverer. I am not proud of it. Hovering is just plain rude. I should know better.

Yet, every now and then, our worst qualities step up and save the day. Imagine my delight when I found myself in the kitchen last week, face to face with a dish that actually appreciates, in fact demands, a good hover! My step-mom, Amy, was stirring up a pot of risotto, and she needed someone to man the stovetop while she tended to some other to-dos. Now, when it comes to risotto, the lackadaisical need not apply. Amy needed a true-blue hoverer. I was her girl.

I feel a comfy kinship with risotto. This dish just gets me. It wants me to hover. It begs me to hover. It understands that timing is everything. You see, for risotto to do its just tender, creamy-but-not-mushy thing, the stirring must be constant and the broth must be ladled, one half cup at a time, at measured intervals. And once said broth has been absorbed, it's time to eat. As in, now, lest the silky grains of rice sulk off into sticky clumps.

Hoverers of the world, hold your heads up high. This recipe is for you.

[This post is dedicated to those shining individuals who, despite my shenanigans, join me in the kitchen and cook by my side. I love making food with you.]

Cream of Tomato Risotto
Adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

The title of this recipe is misleading: Not a drop of cream (or butter, even) meets the pot. It's the cooked Arborio rice and the handful of cheese that lends the "cream" to this dish. The recipe calls for canned plum tomatoes. It's perfect for one of those wintry nights when you're longing for something tomato-y and simply cannot hold out until summer. In my family, we enjoy this risotto with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts.

1 1/2 T. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup canned plum tomatoes, slightly crushed, with their juice
1 T. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and cook over low heat until soft, about three minutes. Then add the rice and cook, stirring, for another three minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the stock and wine to a boil in another saucepan. Reduce the heat and keep it at a simmer.

Stirring constantly, slowly add one cup of the hot stock to the rice. Continue to stir. Allow the rice to simmer gently. When the stock has been absorbed, add another 1/2 cup and stir well until it too has been absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time until almost all of the stock has been added. Have I mentioned that you need to stir constantly?

Add the tomatoes and rosemary. Continue cooking and stirring, adding the remaining stock in 1/4 cup amounts, until the rice is slightly creamy and just tender. Altogether the rice should cook for 25 to 30 minutes.When all the stock has been absorbed, stir in the Parmesan and black pepper. Top each serving with another little sprinkle of cheese. Serve immediately.


zahavah said...

sort of reminds me of the oft-mentioned "helicopter parenting..." especially when thinking about the stirring of the risotto. plus the recipe sounds great! looking forward to having you back here and maybe we can cook side-by-side.

Jess said...

Zahava, you're right! I am totally a helicopter cook...

EEJ said...

I'm also a hoverer when it comes to other people helping me cook, but I have a bad, BAD tendency to lose focus when I'm cooking on my own OR trying to cook while someone is trying to help. I.e. While making pasta sauce, I will let the garlic burn in order to properly oversee the preparation of other vegetables that will be joining it in the pan. Of course, this is why mise-ing en place is necessary. I still just blame it on my "unpredictable" (actually not unpredictable at all) stove.