Grown-Up Comfort Food: Spinach Risotto

Mmmmmm. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Yesterday was very crappy weather-wise. It was muggy and rainy and an all-around gloom fest. Naturally, I was in need of some comfort food. Up until I became a “grown-up” and moved across the country and got married and started working a 9-5 job and all that jazz, my go-to comfort food was Kraft Mac & Cheese. I’m certainly not knocking it as a “kiddie” comfort food or anything. I still love it to this day. But I used to be able to eat a whole box in one sitting, and now half a box gives me a stomach ache. Sad face.

So what’s my solution to this predicament? Since I also felt like a dose of something rich in vitamins (because that’s apparently how I roll nowadays), I decided to make some spinach risotto. I am absolutely in love with risotto. The Hubbster and I fondly call it “rice plus,” because it’s like regular rice but with a little extra flair and fancy-ness. The first time I made it, I was terrified. If you’ve never made risotto, do not fear it. Yes, it takes 30-60 minutes to produce (depending on what you’re putting in it), but it is actually super easy. Cross my heart. This one is a little easier than my lemon shrimp risotto I posted awhile back, and I’m including step-by-step pictures in this one. So please. Try out my grown-up comfort food. It was the perfectly cozy end to my grim Tuesday.

Let’s begin 🙂

Ingredients:

1 cup arborio rice
3-5 cups of chicken stock (I recommend low sodium)
1 cup dry white wine
1 large clove of garlic
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups of spinach leaves (loose, unchopped)
salt & pepper to taste
splash of lemon juice
Equipment:
Large heavy skillet (a high-sided sauce pan will work as well)
Spatula
Cutting board and knife
Measuring cup
Cheese grater (if you’re going the fresh parmesan route)

First you want to mince your garlic. I used a little more than a large clove. But I like garlic, and I didn’t have anyone to make out with last night, so bring it on! You can also use half of a small white onion if you’re more of an onion person. But again, I like garlic.

Isn’t this little quad photo adorable? I just downloaded that Instagram app with the collages. Love it!

Here, you have a choice. You need to grate your parmesan and (after removing the stems) roughly chop your spinach. You can do this before you start the risotto, or you can do it later while you’re letting liquid absorb. I chose the latter, but I am a multi-tasker in cooking and in life. If you’re nervous about this whole risotto business, do it beforehand and set it aside all pretty and ready to go. But like I said, completely your choice.

Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large heavy skillet on medium-high heat. I love this skillet. I use it for about 90% of my cooking. It’s that awesome and versatile, and I highly recommend picking a similar one up. I say similar because they don’t sell this one anymore. Sad face.

Once your pan is hot, throw in the garlic. Push it around with your spatula so it browns evenly (try not to burn it. But if you do, that’s okay. I don’t judge you for burning garlic). Once it’s started browning, turn your heat down to medium and add about 2 tbsp of butter. After you melt it, put in a little over a cup of arborio rice. I like to think big, so I put in 1 1/4 cup. Stir it into your butter/garlic/olive oil and let the rice absorb it.

While you’re stirring/the rice is absorbing the buttery goodness, pour 1 cup of dry white wine into the measuring cup. Then proceed to pour it into the rice. It’s going to steam when it hits the pan. Don’t freak out. Just stick your face in the steam, because it’s going to smell gooooood.

See, I burned my garlic a little while maneuvering to take low-light pictures. This is why I don’t judge.

You can’t really tell here, but you want to adjust the heat so that the liquid is simmering. There should be some bubbles, but not boiling. Simmers are tricky. Stir it occasionally while it’s absorbing to make sure it’s happening evenly.

Wow! It’s like magic! 🙂

Seriously, what did we do before microwaves?

Once it has absorbed to about this point, it’s time to add more liquid. But from this point on, the liquid needs to be the same temperature as the risotto. Lots of recipes tell you to keep a pot of broth simmering on the stove and to slowly ladle it in. I don’t work that way because 1) depending on the bi-polar weather here in DC, I can go anywhere from needing 3-5 cups of liquid, so I don’t want to heat up too much, and 2) I don’t want to wash an unnecessary pot. So pour 1 cup of broth into your measuring cup, and pop that bad boy in the microwave for 30 seconds. Bam.

Pour the broth into the rice and stir while it absorbs, just like you did when you added the wine. It won’t steam this time because they are both warm. But still feel free to stick your face all up in it to get that sweet smell.

You’re going to repeat this liquid adding process until the rice is al dente (when I made this last night, I only needed 2 additions of chicken broth to get to this point. Yeah, it was that humid). Much like pasta, it should be soft (but not soggy), yet firm (but not hard) when you bite into it. When each addition has been absorbed, pull out a few grains to check for done-ness. It should look like this:

Yours won’t be this color. I don’t know why it looks this way. Maybe I should invest in a better camera…

You’re almost done!

Add another 1/4 cup of broth, a splash of lemon juice, and the spinach. Mmmmm. Let that liquid absorb and the spinach heat up for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Optional: you can saute the spinach in olive oil for a minute before you put it in. But I don’t like my spinach too wilted, so I just threw it in raw. 

When there’s still some liquid left, turn the heat off. Add your parmesan, a little bit of butter and fresh ground pepper and mix it in. Then, if you’re like me, decide there isn’t enough parmesan because you’re a parmesan addict, and throw some more in there.

Seriously, I think fresh grated parmesan is in the top 5 of my all-time favorite smells.

Take a bite and see how you feel about the flavors and adjust accordingly (i.e. adding another splash of lemon juice, more cheese or pepper, or a little bit of salt).

Put it in a bowl, curl up on the sofa and savor. Then go tell all of your friends to follow my blog 😉

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