American, Baking Recipes, Italian, Savory, Uncategorized

The Risotto Fiasco

This is the story of how I messed up, improvised, and succeeded at making risotto.

Okay, first of all, this is why I bake. I love cooking and I love how I can be experimental and try new things and make it up as I go, but sometimes it bites me in the ass.

In this case, it’s a beautiful Sunday morning and I’m about to go into the craziest time ever with a triple bill where I’m dancing all three pieces first cast (if you’re new to the blog, I’m a professional ballet dancer…yeah hi) so I wanted to make something really special. I’m single, I have the weekend to myself to rest and recoup so I wanna do a little “treat yo-self”.

When I first thought of what I wanted to make I immediately thought of my mom’s risotto. Creamy and perfectly cooked- my mom is an amazing cook, the best actually. I figured I could totally do this and boy was I wrong.

I called my mom roughly seven times- SEVEN- about how to make it, what kind of rice to get, why is there only organic shit, what kind of wine do I use, etc, etc.

So in the end, I had decided I wasn’t going to make this. I just was too in over my head. And then I found myself in the food store, wandering the rice aisle, and I grab a box that says “Risotto”. I call my mom and try to figure out what kind of wine to get and mention that the box says to add water. My mom said to me, “what did you get, I use chicken broth and it’s a long process. It takes time to make risotto.”

I BOUGHT THE WRONG STUFF. I am a Cancer zodiac sign too so you know I started getting upset and mad at myself. I spent all this money to make a dish that I don’t know how to make and had bought the wrong ingredients. I even had a freak out about having the wrong pot to make this risotto.

I was stuck- but this Critiquing Carnivore rallied herself together. I am my mother’s daughter and I can figure this out as I go and…improvise! *cue jazz hands*

Firstly, I bought Lundberg family farms organic arborio risotto- basically instant risotto instead of plain arborio rice. The instructions on the side say to use 2.5 cups of water, but instead I used 2 cups of water and half a cup of white wine. My mom said to use Sauvignon Blanc, naturally I had already gotten Pinot Grigio (at least I’m sticking to character with getting the WRONG INGREDIENTS). I also added a little lemon juice to add some acidity to it. With classic risotto instead of water you usually slowly ladle in chicken broth a little at a time, letting the rice absorb the liquid. My mom adds in the white wine and lemon juice for taste.*

In the end I added some chopped onions I had quickly sautéed as well, just to add some texture (and I love onions).

So moral of the story is mom’s know best and the risotto fiasco ended up working out. The boxed stuff came out okay (definitely not the same as my mom’s) and once I stirred in extra Parmesan cheese and top it off with parsley, I still felt like a Top Chef Queen.

*the risotto stayed pretty soupy up until the 15 minute mark- if you go the boxed risotto route DO NOT WORRY. The rice will absorb all the liquid in the end and if not just remove the pot from heat. If you cook it too much and the risotto looks dry, I would recommend adding more water…or wine 😉

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY INSTAGRAM: @CRITIQUINGCARNIVORE

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boston, Italian

North Square Oyster- Boston, MA

Ah, to be back home in Boston once again. After taking just, you know, a little trip to the Bahamas for New Years being back in Boston is nice…even if it is -13 with the wind chill. Any-who, its become a sort of tradition now that when I’m home my parents and I treat ourselves to a fancy North End meal. I mentioned this in my Mammamaria post, but treating yourself to a special meal is fun and well worth it. This time we tried Mammamaria’s neighbor, North Square Oyster.

Located directly across the street is North Square, a lovely older building where the restaurant takes up two floors overlooking the square and an adorable little bar next door. The building is timeless, beautiful ceilings that look foreign in comparison to newer buildings in the area. Chairs and booths situated in the rounded out windows make for a cozy feel when sitting there and mood lighting certainly does, well, set the mood!


As we looked over the menu it is not the typical Italian one is expecting. It’s up there with Mammamaria in terms of how upscale and sophisticated the menu is. You won’t find classic rigatoni with sauce, but items like mushroom risotto and gnocchi in a sweet broth. All the items sound superb and any choices we made that night would have left our taste buds feeling a sense of expansion.

The first dish we ordered was actually a special that evening. Gnocchi in a sweet, sour broth. The gnocchi was definitely homemade, perfectly cooked and absolutely divine. The broth was delicious, a different sweetness to it than you’d expect. Not the typical gnocchi dish one would be expecting, but certainly a delicious one.


The next dish we got was the NY strip steak with caramelized onions, trumpet mushrooms, and pommes purée (mashed potatoes). Okay, first of all, I know mashed potatoes are just potatoes and butter, but these pommes purée were insane. So rich and buttery and seasoned perfectly. There really is nothing like good steak and potatoes. The steak was really juicy and had good flavor to it and was cooked well. The onions were so fragrant and had a strong taste to them, certainly fresh and I’m sure picked at the market that morning. 


Lastly, and certainly the best of the three dishes, was the mushroom risotto. I like getting risotto when I go out if I can (and feel like it) because risotto is a rice that needs time, not something chefs on “Top Chef” like to make. This mushroom risotto was just incredible. With pickled chanterelles, maitake and cepes, and pumpkin spiced almonds it was out of this world. So creamy and warm, the flavors coming together between the mushrooms and pumpkin almonds. I guess, and I could just not be paying attention, but I never thought of mushrooms and pumpkin spice together! What a combination! It truly took the risotto up a notch with that hint of spice. 

North Square is a higher end kind of place, being in the same square as Mammamaria you kind of have to be. Both restaurants have a bit of a reputation of serving superb Italian food and I can honestly say that it’s true. Different vibes, but one common goal…to serve incredible, high end, innovative Italian food. As you tour the Paul Revere house when you’re in Boston, think about just going up the street. Whether it be for drinks at North Square’s cute little bar or having dinner there, it’ll be worth every penny…your taste buds will thank you. 

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