This delicious, healthy (and vegan) alternative to traditional risotto is inspired by a happy accident. One great thing about brown rice, is that when stirred often while cooking, it releases a lot of the natural starch, resulting in a creamy rice with a little extra bite from the natural grain. The flavor profile is naturally nutty, and reminiscent of parmesan cheese, so you really don’t need to add it (making this dish vegan-friendly). And a serving (one cup of dry brown rice makes four servings) is about 200 calories. Mind blowing. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-tradition when it comes to risotto. This is just a healthy alternative that may surprise you.
Plus it reminds me of one of the best movies of our time. “Showgirls.” Who can forget the bonding scene between Nomi Malone and Cristal Connors at Spago at the Forum Shops? OK, so if you’re not me, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about so I made you a visual to jog your memory.
Nomi would love my version of brown rice and steamed vegetables.
Man I love that movie.
Another cool trick I incorporate in this recipe is Alton Brown’s kick-ass technique for steaming the perfect asparagus. I probably make asparagus as a side dish 87% more since I’ve learned this technique. It literally takes 4 minutes. Check out the link! It’ll change your side-dish life.
1T olive oil
1 shallot, sliced thinly
2 large garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1C wild brown rice (a blend works great in this)
1 vegetarian, vegetable bullion dissolved in 3C of hot water
1t cornstarch dissolved in 2Tof cold water
1 bunch of asparagus (stems trimmed)
4 paper towels
Salt & Pepper
1. In a mid-sized pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the shallots and cook until softened (but not browned). Add the garlic until fragrant, about one minute. Mix in the rice and coat with the olive oil mixture and toast a bit, but don’t burn it! This will take a couple minutes, when you can smell the nutty aroma, add the 3 cups of water with the incorporated bullion. Bring to a boil. Stir once very well with a wooden spoon (I just prefer wooden spoons–you could probably use any kind of spoon you want). Reduce to a simmer and cover.
2. Now the trick! Normal brown rice takes about 40-45 minutes to cook. And so does this faux-risotto. But the trick is that every 8-10 minutes, remove the lid, stir vigorously, then replace the lid. This will release the starches and give it a creamy texture, sans butter and cheese! You really can’t over stir it.
3. Dissolve the cornstarch in a little bit of cold water. At about 40 minutes into the process stir it into the rice. This will thicken the sauce further. you may find that your rice released enough starch and you’re happy with the consistency and you wont need to do this step.
4. Steam the asparagus in the microwave. I know, it sounds silly, but this is a fail-proof method of getting the perfect texture of asparagus. Trim the woody parts off the base of the asparagus (usually the last 2-3 inches). Then, fold your 4 paper towels in half so they are 2-wide and 2-deep. Sprinkle 1/4C of water on the towels. Add the asparagus in a single layer on top, season with salt and pepper and then roll the whole thing up like a cigar. Microwave (seam-side down) for about 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Carefully remove from the microwave and trim into bite-size pieces and then gently stir into the risotto.
This makes about 4 huge servings and is definitely substantial enough for a meal. Or if you’re performer in Vegas, like I once was, it could feed you for the entire month. I kid, I kid… kinda.