In every cook’s internal recipe box, there lies a slew of dishes that will never be made for company. Maybe it’s that casserole from your childhood days with one too many cans of mushroom soup involved or that gooey dessert you microwave in a coffee mug. For us, there are the glorious super burritos, which are extremely delicious but none too fancy; the basic Parmesan-on-noodles standby, simple yet satisfying in a pinch; and the lunch dish known as peanut butter rolls, an austere creation of jarred peanut butter spread evenly across a flour tortilla, rolled and then eaten by hand. Everyone has something, right? I like to think even Julia Child had a few metaphorical peanut butter rolls up her sleeve.
What Julia Child also had, however, was a literal book full of recipes that were nothing short of amazing. Being her friend must have been the coolest (much like being besties with Ina Garten, I imagine, which happens to be one of my goals in life). Had I been invited to one of her dinner parties, I’m nearly certain I would have eaten to Thanksgiving-level capacity. Then Jared would have had to roll me home.
Goodness knows I’m a far cry from Julia Child or my future BFF Ina (hey, girl!), but during the past few years, I have stumbled upon a few dishes that are company-approved. Jared and I like to judge the success of a meal by answering two simple questions: Does this taste like something I would order at a good restaurant? And if so, would I order it again?
This mushroom and spinach risotto from Jared’s The Meatball Shop Cookbook gets a “yes” on both counts. Sure, The Meatball Shop is an actual restaurant, and yes, maybe they do serve this risotto as an actual side in said actual restaurant, but don’t let that sway you from adding it to your repertoire, too. Although the dish is a bit labor intensive (it is a risotto after all), it’s worth every minute of rapid stirring involved. It’s so creamy, so fresh and by far my favorite risotto to date. I do hope our next guests come hungry.
Mushroom and Spinach Risotto
Adapted slightly from The Meatball Shop Cookbook (Daniel Holzman and Michael Chernow, pages 74-75)
• 4 ½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 medium onion, finely chopped
• 2 cups Arborio rice
• ½ cup dry white wine
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
• ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
• freshly ground black pepper
• 9 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
• 12 ounces white button mushrooms, wiped clean and roughly chopped
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat (I like to use a cast-iron pot for this because it cooks so nicely and evenly). Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until they are translucent.
Add the rice and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 4 minutes. Add the white wine and salt and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the wine is totally absorbed. Add 1 cup of the chicken stock and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for about 7 minutes, until the chicken stock is absorbed. Add another cup of chicken stock and continue to cook, stirring constantly. When that chicken stock is almost completely absorbed, add the remaining 2 ½ cups of stock and continue to cook, stirring gently, until that stock is absorbed, at least another 10 to 15 minutes.
In the meantime, bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the spinach and cook for 1 minute. Strain the spinach and cool it under cold water, then set it aside.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sauté pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms begin to brown. Remove from the heat, and set them aside.
Once the last 2 ½ cups of chicken stock are completely absorbed, stir in the butter and Parmesan. Then add the mushrooms and spinach, and mix until incorporated.
Do you have any favorite meals that are for your eyes, er tummies, only? And how about the big dogs that you pull out for company? What are your best restaurant-worthy meals? Let’s hear it!