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Fresh Starts

December 31, 2010

Perhaps you and I are alike.  You live life guided by a set of rules or priorities ranging from silly to serious.  You skip or trudge along depending on present circumstances; at times you are more proactive about those rules and most others you find yourself just reacting, not really in control.  You eke out some alone time for self-reflection.  This (re)balancing act occurs for many of us throughout the year but a new calendar on the wall always seems to signal new promises…fresh starts.

Have I got you properly melancholy now?  I’m sorry…please don’t go.  This is New Year’s Eve.  It’s a time for celebration so I won’t bore you with heavy rumination–no, no, no.  As I say goodbye to 2010 I take with me fond memories and this is largely due to you.  Who would have thought that I would connect with so many good people writing about food?  You’ve all enriched my life by coming here to read my ramblings and I THANK YOU SO MUCH!

But I would like to share some of my resolutions with you.  Perhaps if I share them with the world more accountability would follow.  This, my first blogging year has been wonderful but I have seen some bad habits form that I would like to break…and pronto!

  1. Deep down I’m a simple girl, I may even be considered low maintenance, but I do enjoy trying to look my best (occasionally) and I will admit that I’m not quite ready to bid adieu to vanity.  There, I’ve said it.  I’ve been in the same size range for most of my life but over the last few months I’ve noticed a little more love from my clothes—they’ve been hugging me just a little too tightly.  It’s all the baking, you see.  I’ve enjoyed it so much and by the time I realized that I should be giving away most of my efforts the damage was done.  So, I resolve to be more careful.  The only muffin tops I want to see forming should be in my oven and the only ripples in the water.
  2. It’s only fitting that the preceding should be followed by my resolve to return to my regular exercise habits.  There was a time when I cycled around 150 miles per week and our New Year’s Day tradition was to cycle up Mount Hamilton, an 18-mile uphill climb that was more fun than challenging.  This year it won’t be happening.  I’d be calling for rescue halfway up.  I’ve not managed my time wisely at all, the baking bug got me.  This must change, too.  My husband has started to refer to my cycling with him in the past tense.  Yikes!
  3. I also resolve not to be so obsessed with this blog.  I’ve had so much fun with it and I want to do so much more but this brings out the competitive (against me) Jean. I have a new site that’s been in maintenance mode for months because I think it’s not “good enough”.  I struggle with my photography and find myself arranging my cooking schedule according to optimum photography conditions.  I look at my blog stats multiple times a day–though I sometimes feel embarrassment that I share (uninteresting) tidbits of my life with you here, there’s another part of me that says, yes, please visit…and often!  I resolve to find a balance to do what I enjoy without letting the unimportant aspects of it consume me.
  4. Finally, you may have noticed that the common chord among the previous three has to do with how I’ve used my time.  If I manage it wisely, I can find the time to do these things properly.  One thing that has been gnawing at me is that I have stopped my volunteer work.  I volunteered at Stanford Hospital for a few years–administrative changes removed the position I shared with others but now I hear it’s back.  I’ll share more of this with you another time.  For now, I’ll just say that I will make an effort to bring this back in my life.  I’ll make time.

In spirit of ringing in the new year in good health I decided to share this rich, decadent but not unhealthy risotto dish.  Dried porcini mushrooms are perhaps not an everyday ingredient to enjoy but I prize them and they warrant being used on special occasions.  They’re naturally woodsy and earthy and when dried these flavors are intensified.  When I travel to Italy, I immediately seek out a bag to take home (more economical) or sometimes I replenish by purchasing online.  A little goes a long way since the liquid that is used to rehydrate the porcini mushrooms becomes a very flavorful stock.

In this case I used roughly 1 – 1 1/2 cups of dried porcini mushrooms.  Yes, this was a bit of  a treat but I haven’t used my stash much all year.  Feel free to substitute chanterelles or shiitakes instead.  You may achieve a slight variance in flavor but the overall effect should be similar.  I also found a Rouxbe recipe which uses vermouth (won’t let me link for some reason) so I borrowed that idea since I had just enough leftover to use here.

This risotto is rich in color and flavor, all because of the dried porcini mushrooms and the liquid.  The vermouth lent even more depth of flavor without drowning the essence of the mushrooms.  Topped with just a bit of cheese, this was a truly a special eve of New Year’s Eve meal.

Porcini Mushroom Risotto

  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups dried porcini mushrooms (you can substitute other dried variety)
  • 1 cup fresh crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 3 – 4 shallots, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • About six cups of combination of chicken stock, water and/or mushroom liquid (I used 4 cups stock, 1 1/2 cups mushroom liquid and remainder water)
  • 1 cup vermouth (can substitute chicken stock)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice, optional
  • Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
  • Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

To prepare the mushrooms:  Soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes to rehydrate.  Strain the mushrooms and chop; reserve the liquid.

Simmer the stock in a separate pot on the stove.

To prepare the risotto: Sauté the onions in a bit of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat until they’re translucent.  Add salt to help the “sweating” process if you wish.  After about four minutes, add the garlic and cook until fragrant.  Next add the mushrooms and cook for about five minutes.  Your mixture will be dry in the pan at this point.  Add some freshly ground black pepper if desired.

When the mushrooms have cooked a bit, add the rice and allow to cook in the pan for about 3 minutes.  Be sure to stir the mixture so it doesn’t burn.  Cook until the rice looks translucent on the ends. Add the vermouth and cook until it’s absorbed by the rice.  Continue cooking the rice by adding a cup of chicken stock at a time.  Stir frequently to avoid burning and only add the next cup of liquid until the previous addition has been absorbed by the rice.  I strained my mushroom liquid to separate the impurities and added this to the risotto for even more flavor (highly recommended).  To balance out the flavors, I used a bit of water to supplement the chicken stock.

The risotto should not be overcooked.  It will take about 25 minutes of stirring and adding liquid until it’s done.  The rice should have a little bite still and should be a little chewy.  Turn off the heat and add a small amount of butter to add shine and a bit of creaminess.  You can add a squeeze of lemon juice but this is just my preference.  Plate and garnish with chopped parsley and cheese.

Happy New Year!!!

36 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2010 12:56 PM

    Jean – First Happy New Year to you and your hubby! I am thrilled that we met one another this year and look forward to spending time together in 2011. Your resolutions are right on point. I am in the midst of narrowing mine down. I do have blogging ones, career and general life ones. The key is balance for me. When I saw the photo of the risotto, my mouth instantly began to water. All my favorite things. What a perfect dish for this chilly weather we have been having. Enjoy your New Years Eve whatever your plans may be. Charles and I will be relaxing and perhaps a glass of bubbly with our neighbors tonight. Cheers!!

    • January 2, 2011 3:03 PM

      Happy New Year, Lisa! Hubby and I celebrated with friends and enjoyed a slumber party. We thought it would be safer to stay with our friends than to drive home and meet potential danger on the roads. Glad you understand my resolutions–I’ll definitely try to get a handle on them this year. So glad to have met you and I look forward to more foodie meet ups in 2011. 🙂

  2. December 31, 2010 12:59 PM

    This is indeed a risotto to ring in the new. Porcinis remain near and dear to my heart and is it silly – I always have some at hand! A new year is filled with infinite possibilities. I resolve at odd times during the year but always look forward to this eve. The best resolutions are the do-able ones and yours are. I wish you luck, deliciousness and cycling … and time in the coming year. Happy 2011!

    • January 2, 2011 3:05 PM

      Happy New Year to you, too, Claudia. 🙂 I feel the same way you do about NY resolutions though I have others throughout the year. I wish you great success in your own 2011 resolutions! 🙂

  3. December 31, 2010 12:59 PM

    This looks absolutely divine. I can almost taste this- you’ve got some lovely food porn there. I can relate to them all especially the blog obsession!! Looking forward to reading more from you in the New Year!

  4. December 31, 2010 1:12 PM

    Sounds like a winning recipe! I love the texture of cooked mushrooms and rice.

  5. December 31, 2010 1:26 PM

    Happy New Year! The risotto looks amazing! 🙂 Will have to give this recipe a try.
    I’m also trying to ease my way back into exercise…though unlike you I’ve been having trouble finding motivation to blog…Anyway, hopefully 2011 will be a good year! 🙂

  6. December 31, 2010 2:01 PM

    I get slightly obsessed with my blog, too. But, it’s all a labor of love. I’ve accepted my neurotic tendencies and embraced them full strength. :p

    As with photography, there’s always room to learn and grow. I continue to struggle with mine. But, I’m looking forward to being inspired next year. :p

  7. December 31, 2010 3:17 PM

    Yay for risotto! On my list of things to make for 2011…great recipe, thanks for sharing and Happy New Year!

  8. December 31, 2010 4:12 PM

    Thoughtful and a great reminder about balance. I say this risotto is perfect – healthy (mushrooms), flavorful, and hearty. We all grow and learn – that’s what keeps it interesting. Here is to an amazing 2011!

  9. December 31, 2010 4:42 PM

    This looks so delicious. I love risotto and all the ways you can prepare it. Thanks for the inspiration.

  10. January 1, 2011 8:34 AM

    As I read your resolutions, I felt like you were reading my mind! (Great minds think alike!) Here’s to a healthier and more balanced life in 2011! Cheers!

  11. January 1, 2011 10:44 AM

    Happy New Year I am happy to have gotten to know you this year. GREG

  12. January 1, 2011 1:18 PM

    lovely recipe. i loved your resolutions, they were so heartfelt.

    and no need to be competitive against yourself re: blogging. it’s a hobby for most of us and we all think your work is fantastic. i love all your posts and photos-they are distinctly you. 🙂

    happy new year!

    • January 2, 2011 3:07 PM

      That was my problem, Nadia. It started out as a hobby then I slowly started to make it into something more. I think I’m properly grounded again. Thanks so much for your generous compliment–Happy New Year to you!

  13. January 1, 2011 3:02 PM

    great resolutions i think we all get a little blog obsessed at time hugs

    will add porcini to my next risotto

    happy new year


  14. magicofspice permalink
    January 1, 2011 5:21 PM

    This is a wonderful risotto with such great flavors 🙂
    Wishing you a fantastic 2011!

  15. January 1, 2011 6:46 PM

    Oh my goodness, that risotto looks AMAZING. Delicious! Forget being healthy, I want that! 😉

    Happy New Year, lovely. I have long since given up on resolutions because I know what I’m like, but I hope yours work out better for you! They’re all worthy resolutions, keep us updated on how it goes!

    Jax x

  16. January 1, 2011 10:06 PM

    Looks beautiful and delicious! Great recipe with lots of flavor. Thanks for sharing.

  17. January 1, 2011 11:12 PM

    What a wonderful post. Your risotto looks flavorful and creamy…I adore mushrooms, so of course this make me smile. But I loved your honest reflections and your goals for the upcoming year. You are such a talented person, and I feel honored to “know” you. Thank you for sharing with me tonight. I hope you have a wonderful Sunday.

  18. trissalicious permalink
    January 2, 2011 12:04 AM

    I admire your honesty Jean… and like you… there have been times I looked at my stats multiple times a day! It was only a couple of months ago I learned to let you – and am much happier for it!

    A tip I learned from a friend was to do most of the food preparation during the weekend and the picture taking… then you don’t need to re-arrange your schedule too much…

    Good luck with your volunteering… I too have been really slack in that area…. I hope to be inspired by your experiences.

    Wishing you the best in 2011!


    • January 5, 2011 11:35 AM

      Trissa, thanks for all you said. I’m trying to eliminate unnecessary stress from my life and worrying about my blog stats definitely qualifies for one of those. I tried to do what you suggested this weekend and it worked. I’m ready for another post earlier than I expected though the pictures didn’t turn out quite the way I liked. Still, not worrying about it.

      Yes, I’d really like to do more service than “self” -ish things this year. I’ll really try. Thanks so much! 🙂

  19. January 2, 2011 9:17 AM

    i share your new year’s resolution #3 Jean, i should have a blog detox for awhile. .. I am exactly how you described it… and sometimes I feel guilty about it.

    I love risotto and I will remember to add porcinis next time.
    Happy New Year!

    • January 5, 2011 11:37 AM

      Happy New Year, Malou. It seems that most of us get fixated on our numbers at one point or another, huh? 🙂 The porcinis go really well with risotto. I encourage you to try it. 🙂

  20. January 2, 2011 9:18 AM

    This risotto dish looks beautiful and healthy! Dried porcini mushrooms are a perfect addition!

  21. January 2, 2011 2:05 PM

    This risotto looks fabulous! I have a very similar recipe on my blog that I really enjoy. I will have to try this version too! Your biking trips sound like so much fun. My husband and I like to bike a lot too, luckily where we live we have miles and miles of bike trails. Good luck with your goals for this year! 🙂

    Christina @ Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

    • January 5, 2011 11:40 AM

      Christina, thanks for stopping by. Nice to know a fellow cycling blogger. 🙂 We lucky, too, in that there are so many nice bike routes from our front door. We always say that we live in cycling mecca. It’s nice, isn’t it?

      Happy New Year to you! 🙂

  22. January 4, 2011 9:11 PM

    You have NO idea how much I’m craving this risotto right now! Love it! 🙂
    Happy New Year!

  23. January 4, 2011 10:42 PM

    Porcini mushroom risotto is my absolute favorite, but I’ve never made it at home. Your photos are making my mouth water! Jean, you reveal so much of yourself in your posts – I admire your talent and your honesty and agree that resolving to have more of a balance in your life is very important. I too hope to return to volunteering as well as read more, learn a bit of French, and return to my exercise routine, which in no way resembles yours, but its more than I’ve done this past year sitting in front of a computer! Happy New Year and I hope to actually meet you this year!

  24. January 5, 2011 11:47 AM

    Priscilla, you’re so sweet, thanks. I hope I don’t share TOO much. 🙂 It sounds like we have some common goals for the year–I’m determined to learn Italian (and/or French) in addition to the other stuff. We’ll cheer each other on to accomplish what we’ve set out to do for the year. Glad to have connected with you and I would love to meet you this year. 🙂

  25. January 6, 2011 7:38 PM

    I can always count on you for a post that I can eat with my eyes – since that’s as close as I’m going to get to all the delicious foods you post. 🙂 I’ve actually never made risotto (I’m intimidated) but I enjoy ordering it when I’m out. I keep telling myself one of these days I’ll try to make it. I hope that you’ll have the chance to return to volunteering this year. I’ve stopped volunteering too but I feel like it’s one of the things that’s been missing in my life. I wish that I could somehow make time to do so. Thanks for sharing your resolutions and for your comments regarding my un-resolutions on my blog today. 🙂

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