Before I met Chef Matt, risotto was something I had never eaten. I imagined that it appeared only on fancy, expensive menus, and knew that it was certainly nothing I could ever cook. Far too much stirring.
In the years since, risotto has become a staple in our kitchen's repetoire: roasted sweet corn risotto, lime and cilantro risotto, even my bastardized version with cream of mushroom soup and frozen mixed vegetables. When cooked properly, risotto has a marvelous texture, creamy with a barely perceptible crunch, like a perfect al dente pasta. I have come to love it as a versatile side and hot-dish substitute and something I can eat in large quantities.
My change of heart regarding risotto was not merely gastronomical. I associate risotto with the important romantic moments in my relationship with Matt, an edible marker of the milestones of our couplehood.
Risotto was the very first thing he ever cooked for me. By his own admission, Matt is a terrible judge of dry rice and pasta quantities, and that night he made enough risotto to feed most of the people living in my zip code. I happily ate reheated risotto for two weeks.
At our wedding, we had parmesan risotto in lieu of potatoes. In the midst of the gaiety, he leaned over to me and said, "The texture isn't right." I said, "No one will notice but you." Ultimately, one other person did notice, but the night went on despite the texture deficiency.
Five days later, we met risotto in its native country. On our second night in Venice, we had reservations at Osteria da Fiore, a restaurant tagged by four dollar signs in our travel guide and so modestly marked in a narrow street that we walked by it three times. The shrimp and mushroom risotto was only available ordered "for two." Convinced that anything only available "for two" must be something particularly amazing, we ordered it. The dish was both dense and light as air, the most splendid risotto either of us had ever eaten.
Each year on our anniversary, Matt makes our wedding dinner, including a lovely, correct-texture parmesan risotto, and it's blissful in taste and memory. Although the dish has lost some of its mystique, it will always be a magical food for me, reminiscent of heady new love, a wedding, and an Italian honeymoon soaked in wine and enlightened by flawless foods.