The Risotto Disaster

Oh hey, it’s time for everybody’s favorite post, the one where Michelle royally screws something up in the kitchen.

Except, I don’t think you can blame this one on me. I did everything I knew how to do. There were larger forces at work. Forces like a semi-buzzed boyfriend who did not realize the risotto was falling apart. A recipe that was not detailed and did not take taste into consideration. Also, this weird thing I have about food needing to be super fresh!

In the end, this dish wasn’t so bad that it would be considered terrible. At least one of us ate it. But seeing as my dinner ended up being a totally awesome peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I think it still qualifies as a disaster.

Let me walk you through it.

Hey, it tasted fine to me.

Hey, it tasted fine to me.

It all began with the desire to make a special meal for my Mikey on or near Valentine’s Day. We’re not big into cookie cutter holidays around these parts, but who doesn’t enjoy a romantic homemade meal from time to time? So I started perusing some favorite food sites, just to see what everyone was up to.

This is where I made my first mistake — because we have been watching our waistlines, I’ve recently added some “diet” sites to the line up. Now, diet food doesn’t necessarily have to be bland (as our own recipes should teach you) but it doesn’t exactly scream “romance.” And it was at a new, untested site that I stumbled upon a recipe for Scallops Risotto in Spicy Tomato Sauce.

That was mistake No. 2. Instead of contemplating the ingredients listed and reading the recipe carefully, my taste buds started working overtime on the title of the dish alone. It’s  a common enough trick — one we use all the time here.

Anyway, I went out and purchased all the ingredients for what would eventually turn into dinner slop at the bargain price of about $20 — those scallops were expensive.

And then I set out to try and make this “dish.” But there was a problem — the recipe I found didn’t really tell you where to start. So, thinking the risotto would take longer to cook, I started with that. Mistake No. 3. I’m actually going to stop keeping count because I feel it’s bad for my self esteem.

So, the risotto started out the way these things usually do, by sauteing half of a small onion in olive oil over medium heat. Once the onion was done, I added one cup of Arborio rice and stirred it about, attempting to get it to take on that translucent look I’ve read so much about. Only, that wasn’t happening, so I added a bit more oil. Which seemed to help.

We like onion.

We like onion.

Then it was time to add the broth — the secret to good risotto is to add a little bit of warmed broth at regular intervals. Well, I didn’t warm the liquid, because it was already at room temperature, but I did add a little at a time. And I was using vegetable broth, which you know is our total favorite.

Add broth as needed.

Add broth as needed.

So, to the one cup of rice, I needed to add about 2 and 2/3 cup of liquid. No more than 1/2 a cup at a time, which was going to take a while. About half an hour, to be exact. And I was doing pretty good with this, stirring the rice near constantly until it absorbed the broth and then adding a little bit more broth to the pan. Things were looking, and smelling, mighty tasty.

But then I realized I was going to have to step away from the risotto to start on the sauce — even if just for a few minutes. This is when the whole meal took a turn for the worse.

OK — just for the record, I totally know how to make spicy tomato sauce. You just make regular tomato sauce, except you heat more crushed red pepper flakes in olive oil at the very beginning of your preparation. Why this didn’t occur to me, I don’t know.

The recipe I got from the diet site called for heating up mustard seeds in a dry pan until the seeds pop. Alright, mustard seeds! I’ve … never used those, but how hard can it be? Was there such a thing as spicy mustard seeds? What about Chinese hot mustard seeds? All I could find at the grocery store was yellow mustard seeds. So that’s what I bought and that’s what I used.

Who would have thought of mustard seeds?

Who would have thought of mustard seeds?

Hey, they popped! Moving along.

The recipe told me to add some olive oil and onion (not a problem!) and let that cook. Then add some minced garlic. Also not a problem! It was pretty easy. Except, the risotto needed to be stirred some more. Oh well, I can stir that while the garlic cooks. Done and done. Wait. What’s that smell? Crap! It’s the garlic! About to burn! Alright, stir that a bit. Good, good. Now back to the risotto. Am I supposed to be doing something for the sauce here?

Tomatoes! And more stock! To the sauce. OK — one can of tomatoes. Where’s the can opener? Mike? Mike, where’s the can opener? OK — I see it. I’ll just drain these off quick. Crap — they’re mostly falling down the drain. You’re in my way. Why are you washing your hands, anyway? Forget the draining and the rinsing. We’ll just have to live with the sodium. In the pan they go. I’m stirring! This pan is too big for this sauce. Everything’s so spread out! Quick, get some stock. Vegetable stock is in. No problem. And, since the risotto is starting to get all goopy, I’ll throw some more stock in there as well. Now, I just have to stir both of these at the same time. Hey, that’s why I have two hands!

Ha ha ha … cooking is fun! Now what else goes into the sauce? Um … Dijon mustard. Seriously?

Right about here, I started questioning my mental health. I know  Dijon mustard is spicy, but it’s also kind of … a loner. It doesn’t really play well with other ingredients … like diced tomatoes. And I have written down here that I need half a cup. That sounds like a ridiculous amount of mustard for anything, except maybe the world’s biggest vat of potato salad. I’ll just put in a teaspoon or two. Mmmm … that orange color is totally unappealing. I’ve essentially turned the sauce brown.

Shit, back to stirring the risotto. I don’t know that there was much hope of saving it. It took all the liquid it could and turning down the heat was only making it more gloopy. Good thing I’m almost done!

To the orange/brown mustard and tomato sauce, I added half a pound of sea scallops. They smelled a little fishy, but I didn’t have a lemon to cut that with and I was ready to be done at this point. Also, I’m not sure how well scallops need to be drained, but I totally half-assed it.

I thought they were OK.

I thought they were OK.

Um … how can you tell when scallops are done? I mean, when you’re cooking them in sauce?

I’ll just wait 10 minutes or so. They’re pretty big. Maybe if I cut them?

Screw it! I declare this dinner to be ready for consumption! Throw some Parmesan cheese on top of the risotto and cover the whole dish with it.

I plated the food and we sat down to eat. The “risotto” was the consistency of wallpaper paste at this point. The sauce was like a mixture of toppings on the world’s worst hot dog. And the whole thing tasted a bit fishy, which is waaaaaay too fishy for me.

I took one bite and decided I’d rather have … a $20 peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

Mike at a few bites to be polite, but there was no way he was taking seconds.

Seriously, save the time and money. Don’t try this at home!

However, we did come up with a recipe based on the various “tweaks” we would make to make this dish more palatable. Cook at your own risk!

Read the recipe here.



Filed under Dinner, Disasters

2 responses to “The Risotto Disaster

  1. LynnO

    Reminds me of the time I tried to cook scallops (one of my favorites) at home. I hated them and thought they tasted too fishy. Colin ate them, though — what a sweetheart! I haven’t tried them again.

  2. Good Eater

    Hmmm…me thinks I will leave the risotto for a treat when we go out to eat. It is delicious but this sounds like a total PITA to try to make at home.

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