Don’t be tempted to walk away. Lulu de Rouen, chef de cuisine at Cucina Enoteca at Irvine Spectrum, says that the most important thing to remember when cooking risotto is to stay close to the stove.

She says you can multitask doing other uncomplicated kitchen tasks, but you need to keep an eye on the risotto and stir it frequently. Fifteen to twenty minutes, she says, of risotto devotion.

See how Chef Lulu de Rouen uses a restaurant trick to partially cook risotto in advance to shorten last minute cooking time in this a short video. It will make you hungry.

She uses a stock flavor-boosted with the rinds from Parmesano-Reggiano cheese. The rinds lend an earthiness to the liquid, and an alluring scent that is a cheesy and nutty. In my home kitchen, I save the rinds in an airtight container in my freezer. When the container is full, I make stock or bean soup using them as a flavor element. In Lulu’s busy restaurant kitchen they use so much of the Italian grating cheese, they have what seems like an endless supply.

Here is one of her favorite risottos for summer, a version that showcases fresh English peas and wild mushrooms.

The trumpet mushrooms are cut in half lengthwise, then shallow crisscross cuts are made on the cut surface before they are sauteed.

Lulu’s Wild Mushroom and English Pea Risotto
Yield: 8 servings
2 quarts water, salt-reduced chicken broth or Parmesan stock, see cook’s notes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
1 medium-sized yellow onion, finely diced
2 cups Canaroli rice or Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups wild mushrooms, a mix of king trumpet mushrooms and oyster mushrooms preferred, but others can be substituted, see cook’s notes
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped shallots
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme
3 tablespoons butter, divided use
1/2 cup fresh English peas (you can use frozen, but add them during the very last part of cooking)
4 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano preferred, see cook’s notes
3 tablespoons whipped heavy whipping cream
Salt to taste
Optional drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Garnish: 2 ounces shaved Parmesan, Parmigiano Reggiano preferred
Optional garnish:  pea leaves and tendrils
Garnish: 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
Cook’s notes: If making Parmesan stock, place several rinds from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on a rimmed baking sheet; place in 375-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes to “sweat.”  Place 2 quarts water in large pan or Dutch oven on high heat. Add Parmesan rinds and bring to boil on high heat. Cover and remove from heat. Allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain.
She grated the Parmesan on the large holes of a box grater so the pieces were larger than those made using a device with smaller holes, so the 1 cup measurement in Step # 3 will be smaller if using finely grated cheese, about 1/2 cup. If using large trumpet mushrooms, cut them in half lengthwise and score cut surface in shallow crisscross pattern.
1. Put stock, broth or water in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer on high heat; reduce heat to keep it hot, just below a simmer. Meanwhile, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in large, deep, heavy-bottomed skillet on medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice and stir to combine; cook rice about 2 minutes, toasting it very lightly without browning it, stirring frequently. Add wine; increase temperature to medium-high. Reduce wine, stirring frequently, until almost all liquid is absorbed. Add enough hot stock, water or broth to completely cover rice. Reduce until most of liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently.
2. Meanwhile, sauté mushrooms. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in medium skillet on high heat. When very hot, add mushrooms and sauté until nicely browned, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, shallots, thyme and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter; stir and cook until garlic softens. (If using Parmesan stock, add about 2 tablespoons of it and deglaze pan by stirring to break up any browned bits on pan.) Season to taste with salt; set aside.
3. When rice has absorbed almost all of the stock (at the end of step #1), add 3/4 cup more stock at a time, stirring frequently, waiting to add another 3/4 cup broth when most of liquid is absorbed. When only about 3/4 cup of broth remains to be added, add peas to rice and remaining both; continue to cook and stir for 1 minute. Rice should be creamy, but each kernel should be a little firm at the center. Stir in mascarpone, 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, whipped cream, and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Continue stirring to incorporate all ingredients until desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with salt. Spoon into shallow bowls and drizzle each serving with a little olive oil if desired. Spoon on mushrooms. Garnish with shaved Parmesan, pea leaves and tendrils (if using) and chives. Serve immediately.
Source: Lulu de Rouen, chef de cuisine Cucina Enoteca,  Irvine
Cucina Enoteca,  31 Fortune Drive #306  Irvine 949-861-2222


 …Tip from Melissa’s…

Roasting fresh asparagus is an easy way to cook it, a method that builds appealing texture and flavor.

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat to 450 degrees. Remove the tough portion at the bottom of each asparagus stalk. Place on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and rotate asparagus to lightly coat with oil (you can roll them around with your hand); sprinkle with coarse salt, such as kosher salt. Make sure asparagus is in a single layer. Roast 7 to 10 minutes depending on width of stalks.

One luscious way to serve it? Serve with burrata cheese and drizzle on a simple vinaigrette spiked with fresh minced tarragon. Grind on some black pepper.

Burrata is a fresh, soft cheese made from mozzarella and cream –  outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream.

Cheese shops sell it, some supermarkets as well as Trader Joe’s and Costco.

Ace videographer-photographer Curt Norris must have liked it.

Clean plate, happy man.