By: Dennis Bates
I taught my daughter how to make risotto last night. Some of you are probably saying, “What’s the big deal?” A few of you may be asking, “What’s risotto?” Shame on both of you.
Risotto is another of the delightful Italian dishes made from Arborio rice that can literally take on whatever form you want it to. It, like all Italian cooking strives for simplicity and quality by using the best possible ingredients you can find and letting the natural flavors of the ingredients shine through. My particular favorite involves shrimp, mushrooms and a handful of fresh peas at the very end, but you can use almost anything.
The key to making good risotto is getting the technique down. It’s not hard, but it is important that you follow it if you want creamy, delicious risotto at the end. And the technique can be taught, which is one reason you hear Italian cooks say, “this is a recipe my mother used, or my grandmother, or aunt.” Cooking for Italians is almost as much about family as it is about eating, and being English, I envy that. It is definitely something worth emulating. Of course, the English would do well to copy anyone when it comes to cooking. For all our strong points, cooking is not one of them. English food is to be tolerated, not enjoyed, for the most part.
But I digress. The really neat part about teaching my daughter to make risotto was that we got to work together. I can make the dish almost in my sleep because I’ve made it so many times, but last night I suggested that my daughter make it. She looked at me like I was crazy.
“I can’t make that,” she said.
“Sure you can,” I responded. “I’ll tell you what to do, and you just do it.”
I had all the ingredients chopped and ready to go in little dishes by the stove, so I pulled up a chair and told her what to do, step by step and, reluctantly, she did the cooking. When she put the bowl of risotto on the table she was pretty proud of herself; it showed in her eyes, as she took the first helping.
The risotto turned out wonderful, but the memories of the two of us having fun, communicating and working together were the best part. Risotto will never be the same to me again because I will always remember my 31-year-old daughter and I making it together. It was such a simple thing; just the two of us cooking together, but it made me think how much we miss in life because we try to complicate it and plan it to death. It really isn’t that hard.
Take advantage of the simple pleasures in life; use the best ingredients you can find, and share what you know with the ones you love. Pass on the techniques, the little secrets and the tricks that make things work. You’ll be surprised how much better life is that way.
I made risotto with my daughter last night, and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. It was 60 of the most precious minutes of my life!