Escape from Abhorrent Arborio Prices

Arborio for $8.89Home cooked risotto was on the menu last night.  So earlier that afternoon, I decided to jaunt on over to the local grocery store with a quest for arborio.

But what I found left me flabbergasted.

$8.89 for a little over two pounds of rice!!! Now, I knew arborio sold for a pretty penny, but I didn’t think I’d have to shell out eight hundred and eighty nine of them.

Despite how badly I wanted risotto, $8.89 was a price point that I just couldn’t justify for rice. After a scan of the rice selection, I quickly found short grain rice (aka pearl rice) at $2.39 for two pounds and decided to use it a substitute for the overpriced arborio.

Here’s why I knew it would be okay to use short grain white rice as a substitute for arborio:

  • Arborio is a short grain rice.  It’s an Italian short grain variety with a crazy-high starch content.  This starch content is what makes risotto so creamy. (btw… Never, ever rinse your arborio. You’ll wash away some of that great starch.)
  • Pearl rice, or short grain white rice, also has a pretty impressive starch content. It too can absorb massive amounts of liquid without becoming soggy.

Differences that lead me to proceed with caution:

  • While pearl rice does have a high starch content and it absorbs massive amounts of liquid, it does neither quite as supremely as arborio.  So, I knew I’d have to scale back my liquid – slightly.  And, I would have to push these little rice grains to their liquid holding capacity, without causing them to become soggy.

And the result? Absolutely fabulous!

Our Mushroom Risotto was velvety smooth, rich and creamy.  The pearl rice held up wonderfully well… one cup of rice absorbed about four cups of broth and the integrity and texture of individual grains were perfect (no soggy rice here).

Braised Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

The recipes…

Mushroom Risotto

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/3 lb shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup short grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 3 – 4 cups chicken broth, simmering (Mis en place: Keep a pot of hot chicken broth and a ladle on your back burner)
  • Season w/ salt & pepper

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil. Add thyme and mushrooms.  When mushrooms are cooked through, add port and reduce till pan is nearly dry. Add rice and sauté.

Now, the painstaking dedication comes in. Finish the risotto in the traditional, arm-numbing way: Add one ladle of hot broth to the rice; stir till absorbed; repeat until rice is cooked.

Braised Chicken with Figs

  • 2 chicken breast, boneless & skinless
  • 3/4 cup Port
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • 12 Mission Figs
  • Additional olive oil for braising

Combine all ingredients together in a zip lock bag. Marinate for 2 – 4 hours.

Heat heavy pan (preferrably cast iron) on high heat. Pat chicken breasts dry. Add olive oil to pan. Add chicken and sear both sides. Add marinateing liquid (including figs). Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until internal temp on chicken is 165 degrees.

Remove chicken from pan and set aside to keep warm. Thicken remaining juices in pan with cornstarch slurry. Serve sauce and figs over chicken.

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