Today was Election Day here in Korea, which meant a vacation day for us. We went out last night to celebrate, and spent today in bed, watching Mad Men and fully ignoring our original plans of cleaning the apartment. It was lovely.
I did, however, make it out to E-Mart to stock our dwindling food supply. We really needed protein, so I grabbed some chicken breasts, lemons and a few other essentials during a quick supermarket trip.
Since it wasn’t a work day, I decided to spend time on dinner and make Sunshine Risotto. My dad made something similar to it while we were staying in Long Beach before the move — it is a heavenly mushroom risotto brightened by the additions of artichoke hearts and lots of lemon juice. The sunny colors and flavors inspired the name.
Some of my favorite moments with my father were spent in the kitchen, pouring wine, mincing garlic, sauteing onions, rolling out pie dough… and talking. About life, politics, travel, religion, and even tricks of the kitchen trade. Everything I know about food pairings, chopping, slicing, and simmering I learned from my dad. His love of cooking has really inspired me to be adventurous with food, something I will always be grateful for. If you never try to cook something, you’ll never discover dishes you never knew you can’t live without!
Over the years, I have found comfort in the slow, methodic and rhythmic ways of the kitchen. I love spending copius amounts of time prepping, cooking and eating food — closing my eyes, stirring a simmering pot, and slowly drinking in all of the wonderful aromas as they fill the room. It is relaxing, and good for the soul. I favor savory dishes over sweet, since baking requires a calculated level of precision, and I feel like all those exact numbers take some of the fun out of it.
Risotto has become a dish that I can make with my eyes closed — no measuring required. I always begin the same way, with an onion melting in olive oil (or butter if I need extra comfort) and broth bubbling slowly on the side. Its not a complicated dish, but one that requires patience, which I actually find soothing (only in the confines of the kitchen though — I’m impatient everywhere else). I had to tweak this particular dish due to the lack of some ingredients, but thanks to my crafty cooking skills it turned out wonderfully (if I do say so myself).
1 onion diced (I let this sweat in a pat of butter), throw in a handful of minced garlic and chopped up mushrooms (and more butter…obviously), toss in about a half can of roughly chopped canned artichoke hearts, sprinkle a palmful of arborio rice in (let the rice sit until the edges turn translucent), next in goes a couple glugs of white wine (normally I like the cheery citrus flavors of sauvignon blanc, but today I used chardonnay).
After the wine has sizzled off, it is time to start adding the stock, chicken or vegetable, slowly — start with a cup, wait til that evaporates, then pour in a half cup at a time (this is where things got tricky — there is NO stock to be found here! So first, I cooked our chicken breasts in the water, then used the seasoning pack from instant ramyeon noodles and ta-da! Broth! It worked). Season liberally with salt and pepper, always. Once the liquid is nearly gone, and your rice is soft but has a slight bite, turn off the heat, squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon, and a few splashes of cream (I only had the nondairy stuff I swiped at Coffee Bean), then top with a little grated parmesan and there you have it — sunshine on a plate.
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