Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monster Mush (aka Spinach Risotto)

Here’s another simple dinner, though this one requires you tend to it while it’s cooking. I recently made this on a night when dinner wasn’t ready (truth be told, I probably hadn’t even figured out what I was going to make) but the kids were hungry, tired and I seized the opportunity to make something easy and get them to bed! If you have kids who like oatmeal, risotto can be an easy sell.

While risotto from scratch is just as easy, I keep a box of Trader Joe’s Wild Mushroom Risotto in the pantry for those nights when I am in a pinch. So, this recipe included:
Trader Joe’s Wild Mushroom Risotto
Chicken Broth
1 bag Organic Frozen Spinach
Parmesan, shredded

I simply toasted the risotto in a bit of olive oil (which coats each grain of rice in a bit of fat) until the grains were translucent. I know this isn’t the way you’re technically supposed to do it, but I never have time to also heat the broth so I add it room temp (straight from the pantry) in small amounts while stirring the rice, almost constantly. In case you’re wondering if it works, yes. This is the way I’ve always done it, and it’s just fine. You’ll see the broth becoming creamy as the rice cooks and takes on some of the starch from the rice. Keep adding a bit more broth until the rice is also a creamy consistency but still a bit al dente. It takes a little practice because you want the liquid mostly absorbed, but the rice not too mushy. Texturally you want individual grains, so watching it as it is cooking is key and you should taste away as it cooks!

Because I was tossing in a bag of frozen—yes folks, straight from the freezer—spinach, I left the burner on low even though the rice was technically done. But normally, once the rice is cooked you’d remove it from the burner and stir in the cheese as a creamy finale. Count on the risotto taking about 20-25 minutes, start to finish (a tad bit longer than normal, since the broth wasn’t heated).

Experts always say you need to heat it right away, but in our house you’ve often got the kids eating early with me, and my husband eating much later. Maybe I’m not a purist, but I think my risotto heats up just fine with a little additional chicken broth to prevent it from becoming too dry.

If your children are bummed by the addition of veggies, try giving one of them the opportunity to name the meal something funny. We called this risotto with spinach, “Monster Mush” and they laughed at their wittiness as they ate it all up.

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