Whenever I watch Hell’s Kitchen, there’s always an episode where Chef Gordon Ramsay says something about a risotto. I even memorized how he pronounces it with his British accent: “Ri-ZOT-toe”. (You said it out loud, didn’t you? Make sure you got the accent down, too. It’s pretty fun, right?) Since then, I’ve always wanted to try it. Looking at the finished product on TV, I saw that it was some kind of porridge made from rice.
Making it though, I was surprised that it was less about the rice and more about getting it to soak. How do you do that? Chicken broth. Lots and lots of chicken broth.
So here’s what I was supposed to make:
And here’s what came out:
Here’s a link to the recipe for the Fresh Herb Risotto, if you’d like to follow along:
- Note to self: if you have less of a major ingredient, also add less of the other major ingredients. Just so it doesn’t look too…much.
- This time, I set out each ingredient in little bowls beforehand, so that was good. That’s when I realized that when you’re cooking, the thing that takes the most amount of time is probably preparing the ingredients.
- I tried to plan out which pots I needed to make this risotto, but I knew that I was only guessing on how much of each part there would be, even if the serving size was two. For example, I put the chicken broth in a big pot and the onions in a smaller one. Little did I know that I needed to slowly add the broth into the other pot with the onions as soon as it had even more ingredients. So instead, I had to improv. Being a theatre major, I was good at that. Case in point: that very moment. I took out a large pan–a rondeau, it’s apparently called?–and put the onions in there instead. Then, I proceeded with the recipe.
- The serving size was originally four, but since it was just me tonight, I cut each ingredient down by half, which made the fractions fun. No, really. I gained back some fraction multiplication skills. “2/3 times 1/2 equals 2/6, AKA 1/3”. (I know, you’d think I’d realize that myself through logic alone, but I don’t math very well.)
- Does the rice have to be cooked already? I was assuming so, but it was never specified in the ingredients, so I was stuck wondering until I added the rice into the mixture. My assumption was correct: risotto involves cooked rice.
- Our garlic cloves were already minced so I had to guess there too. I just assumed that one garlic clove equaled 1 tsp. Also, when you’re reading the instructions, make sure to read every single word and understand it. That way, when the list of ingredients states 4 garlic cloves, but the first time you use them says you need just one clove, you will actually add one clove. I read the instructions beforehand and actually made a mental note when I read “remaining three cloves of garlic” in Step 3. I forgot, so once I came across that step, I thought, Aaaaaaand I finally screwed up. Instead, I added two more tsp. of minced garlic into the pot. I don’t think it made any difference though. I didn’t taste the garlic.
- Stirring the rice was kind of fun though. Because of the broth (I think), when it stuck to the pan, it was really easy to detach. Plus, the chicken stock was absorbed by the rice so quickly that I had fun adding even more broth.
- The green leaves I used were basil and parsley and we ran out of both bottles. We had extras, except the ones I used up actually said “fresh leaves” on the labels, but I didn’t use the others. I still feel as though the amount I had was too much. It tasted like seaweed, which is good, because seaweed paper is a delicious side for a Korean meal. I’m just not sure if I liked it for the risotto.
- How does one cut up lemon skin in order to make “zest”? What I did was peel some of the skin off with a potato peeler, and then chop it up. And, you know, I feel that although there was less of this ingredient, it was probably the flavor that stood out the most. Besides salt.
- Oh, and as I was peeling the lemon skin, I thought to myself, Wanna know what’d be totally fun right about now? Breaking skin. (Sarcastically, of course.)
When I first decided to make this, I wanted to be all “The Fault in Our Stars” and taste the goodness of the risotto that Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters ate in Amsterdam. I even had fizzy white wine, which is close enough to champagne (although I decided not to drink it because I was planning on going for a walk later, which didn’t happen anyway). The Dutch risotto was not as…what’s the word? Green. Not that specific risotto anyway.
As I was washing the dishes, this thought occurred to me: every time I made something, my mom was always surprised by how much of an ingredient it required to make the recipe. It was weird because I figured she’d understand–she’s the one who cooks dinner every day (or at least she was). Instead, she kept encouraging me to just cut each ingredient down to half, but you probably know me by now (at least after reading point number four of this entry): I don’t math very well. Plus, as evidenced in point number six, my memory ain’t so hot either.
Like right now. I was going to make a really good point with that thought process as I was washing dishes, but it has completely escaped my mind. Meh, hopefully it’ll get back to me before I click “Publish”.
At the very beginning, one of the first things it says is “make sure that it is well seasoned”. All I did was add 3.5 cups of chicken stock into the pan. What is there to season? How do I know what it’s supposed to taste like? Can someone please tell me why that direction is there? I mean, when it’s written in Step 4, I get it–the dish is almost done and at that point, you perfect the taste. But what is the chicken broth supposed to taste like when literally all it’s doing is just simmering? I don’t know…
Oh, after adding the notes about the lemon skin, I finally remembered: so why does…aaaaand I lost it again.
Wait, I got it! And it turns out it had nothing to do with the dishwashing daydream! So when you’re looking at specific ingredients, you try to get exactly what they say and how much. Then, you try to read the instructions thoroughly and see if you can replicate what they did. But when something goes wrong, do you find yourself pointing fingers at yourself, or is there a tendency to blame something else? For example, the rice I used was the batch that we already had–extras from last night’s dinner. That’s the only rice we really have, especially the one that was already cooked, so I figured I might as well use it. The list says, however, to use “arborio or carnaroli rice”, specifically. Was that a factor? Did I really need that type of rice?
Having double the minced garlic was probably a factor too.
Or double the lemon zest. (I was so preoccupied with lemon peeling that I wasn’t aware that it was only supposed to fit into half a tsp.)
Too much green.
Got carried away with the salt.
So how do we know what exactly went wrong? The only way to look back and see what could’ve went wrong is by memory, but I suppose that’s why we practice. When we fail, we shouldn’t just give up. We try it again, like I said with the science experiment analogy; we make appropriate adjustments and see if this time was any better. I suppose that’s what they mean when something is (or isn’t) an exact science: you can’t always get it right, but you can certainly up your amount of attempts till you get it right.
Out of 47 ratings though, and two reviews (both very positive), this dish has an average of five stars, so apparently I’m the only one with issues.
Oh wait…maybe the leaves were supposed to be literally fresh, not from-a-bottle-that-says-“fresh”…
P.S. For lunch, I tried making the breakfast sandwich the way my school did it (hey, I usually wake up at 10, so at that point, lunch is breakfast). I think it was egg, ham, and cheese (from bottom to top). The texture was different, I think, because I didn’t cook the ham. I still feel as if something was missing though. I will figure it out. In the meantime, I wasn’t going to share this, but since I already took the picture…: