Mom always said she was the height of an average 7th grader since we all outsized her that year. Though she was only 5 foot 1 she always stood out. She was comfortable playing bridge, golfing, bowling, or preparing church dinners or school chili suppers among her many other talents and interests. She always seemed at ease in any gathering and thrived on family and friend events.
Our kitchen was much like Mom; small but very productive. One end was narrow enough that two children standing shoulder to shoulder would completely block everyone. It included all the regular appliances plus a small pantry. The other end included the kitchen door, the dining room door, the basement door, several cabinets, and a small built-in washer-dryer which I think was installed later when the family was a lot smaller.
We had a clever little fold-out table that pretty much filled the floor space at that end. To best illustrate the smallness of our kitchen is that this table seated five though we were a family of six. Add to that that when someone sat in the end chair it blocked access to the dining room. Being the smallest I was put in the corner where someone had to get up for me to go to the bathroom. The cereal boxes were behind me and called for contortionist skills once we were seated.
On reflection I imagine the table for five wasn’t actually an issue. Fixing breakfast for 6 every morning Mom probably didn’t have time to sit. She braided my sister’s hair for many years too. Once everyone or at least everyone but me was gone she could relax and enjoy her coffee.
While Mom was pretty even tempered we all had incidents where we tested her patience. In the kitchen I remember sugar spills quite vividly. Mom apparently loved ceramic tile since both the counters and the floor in the kitchen were all tile. She also liked leather-soled shoes. Neither of these would seem an issue but I learned quickly that spilled sugar and those soles on that tile floor drove her to distraction. The “scritch, scritch, scritch” was like fingernails on a chalkboard to her. (There’s dying simile.)
After many such transgressions, being a clever young man, I solved the scritching. A wet washcloth cleaned it up perfectly … wrong. Now the floor was sticky. In the end my best defense was being the youngest. She’d seen it all before and her expectations for a 10 year old were very realistic bordering on pessimistic.
I always thought risotto was an exotic dish far beyond my skills. Whatever I read or watched about risotto included much cautionary advice. I had convinced myself it was real chef territory. Boy, was I mistaken. It’s actually quite easy. Yes, it takes a bit more time and attention than some recipes but the creamy, comforting end product is worth it.
Reflection #1: Risotto isn’t the fastest dish to get on the table but it’s too delicious to not make. You don’t need to hover and don’t overstir. The final result is worth the wait.
Reflection #2: Leave out the chicken and this is a great side dish.
Risotto with Chicken and Mushrooms for 4 or 2 with yummy leftovers
1 chicken breast
Reflection #3: I often prep this earlier in the day or the day before. You could also use 1 ½ to 2 cups of leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken.
3 c mushrooms, sliced
4 Tbs butter, separated
1 ½ c rice, basmati or Arborio are my preferences
2 tsp garlic, chopped fine
1 c dry white wine, optional (add an additional cup of broth)
4 c chicken broth
4 c spinach
1 c parmesan, grated
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp onion powder
1 Tbs rosemary, fresh and chopped or 1/2 Tbs dried
salt and pepper
- In an oven-proof pan prep the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and rosemary and 1 cup of water. Cover and bake at 350 for 35 minutes or till done. Strain the liquid to use with the rice. Once the chicken has cooled enough dice it to desired size and set aside.
- Using a large skillet sauté the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter and set aside.
- In a sauce pan heat the chicken broth and liquid from roasting the chicken.
- In the mushroom pan melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and add the rice. Heat over medium stirring often for about 5 minutes adding the garlic for the last few minutes.
Reflection #4: Be sure to reduce to a simmer now. Cooking this too fast lets too much liquid evaporate instead of being absorbed. It won’t cook any faster and you’ll just need more liquid.
5. Add the white wine if you’re using it or a cup of broth. Turn heat down to a
simmer.Stirring and scraping the sides occasionally continue adding broth as
needed. This will take 30-35 minutes. When the rice is just done through add the
mushrooms, chicken, and spinach with enough liquid to keep it all creamy.
Reflection #5: You’ll need to taste the rice as you go. There shouldn’t be any resistance in the center but don’t overcook it. If you need more liquid use more broth or water.
6. Sprinkle the cheese over the rice and mix in. The final risotto should be creamy but
not runny. Add a bit more liquid or simmer to get nice consistency.