April 16, 2010

Rice Cooker Recipe: Dried Mushroom Risotto

I never thought much about rice growing up. Measure, wash, pop it in the rice cooker, easy-peasy. I wasn't aware not every family in the States had a warm container of rice ready for family and guests at any hour until I moved to the Midwest for college. Actually scratch that, it wasn't until I moved to Japan for a year with Midwestern classmates that I realized rice was a big deal to some who had been used to potatoes and bread and worse, Uncle Ben's Instant, all their lives.

I didn't think much about rice cookers since then until I returned to Japan for a visit. We rented a tiny house in a residential neighborhood of Kyoto near Ginkaku-ji (the Silver Pavilion) and it came with a fully equipped kitchen. And then there was this:

Faced with the above with no instructions and a full meal underway on the stove, we were a bit perplexed since at home we have a very low-tech 2-setting cooker.

Thankfully we had a Web connection (what would I do without the Interwebs??) and immediately I did a search for this brand and model, hoping that someone somewhere posted translations. I never did find the exact model but found enough pictures to translate "on" "warm" and "timer." Crisis averted! And we had delicious Japanese rice with dinner.

While figuring out how to use this fancy cooker, I noticed wacky phrases like "bake cake in rice cooker" were showing up in search results. So that got me thinking, what else can I do with my rice cooker? Which led me to this recipe.

Dried Mushroom Risotto

Adapted from The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook
Serves 4-5

1/2 ounce dried shitake mushrooms (you can use any type you like)
1 3/4 cups very hot tap water
1 1/2 cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup onion, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons risotto rice

To Finish:
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated plus more for individual servings
Black pepper, freshly ground

1. Place mushrooms and water in microwave-safe container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

2. When mushrooms are soft, remove from liquid and squeeze to extract liquid. Slice, discarding any tough stems.

3. Pour soaking liquid into measuring cup. Add stock to this to equal 3 cups.

4. Set rice cooker to Cook. Place olive oil and butter in rice cooker bowl.

5. When butter melts, add onion. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes.

6. Stir in wine and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.

7. Add rice and stir until grains are evenly coated and hot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until grains are transparent except for a white spot on each, 3 to 5 minutes.

8. Add stock mixture and mushrooms to rice and stir.

9. Close cover and reset for regular cycle. Set a timer for 20 minutes.

10. When the machine switches to Keep Warm or the timer sounds, stir with wooden spoon or plastic rice paddle. The risotto should be only a bit liquid and the rice should be al dente. Cook for a few minutes longer if necessary.

11. Before serving, add butter. Close cover for 1 minute until butter melts.

12. Stir in parsley, cheese, pepper and salt to taste.

The result: delicious, creamy goodness.

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