As of Saturday, October 25, 2014, I am officially done with risotto and Jamie Oliver cookbooks. Both are cast out from my life; banished and never to return.

Professor X loves risotto. Whenever we fantasize about Italian food, he brings it up. My own fraught history with the dish is documented in entries longs past. I should like it, but haven’t found an actual risotto that works for me.

I was perusing Cook with Jamie for meal inspiration a couple weeks ago when my cognitive processes faltered. Oliver advertises his risotto recipe as practically no-fail. You can even make it for a dinner party and still hang with guests with his method. Okay. Sounds good. I marked the ingredients on my grocery list and toddled off to Fred Meyer.

Spinach with goat cheese was the intended risotto flavor, but Professor X went out of town. No reason to fuss over the stove. Instead, I ate the spinach and goat cheese by themselves while watching Chinese movies. Some time later, I found myself wandering Trader Joe’s when I suddenly remembered the Arborio rice hanging out in the pantry. Mushrooms, stock, and vermouth were procured. I proudly announced that we would have risotto that weekend.

The process started out fine, as it usually does. Dice and saute aromatics. Add rice. Sir in vermouth until evaporated. Stir in ladlefuls of stock until evaporated. The rice even displayed telltale sign of happiness by turning translucent while retaining the opaque core. I put it aside on a greased tray, per Oliver’s instructions, and pulled together the add-ins. While the mushrooms released, then reabsorbed, their liquid, I mused over the PNW’s particularly evocative autumnal weather and decided that it was a perfect Saturday for making risotto.

The crystalline web of my revery would soon shatter. The instructions indicated that I should add half the remaining stock to the rice, and bring to a boil. Well…it never boiled. It just absorbed right up. I plugged on; stirring in stock, stirring in stock, until there was no more stock to stir. I tasted a grain. It was hard inside and gluey outside. In fact, the whole mass was sticking together like a lump of clay. (Oliver would call this “claggy.”) It was supposed to be “looser than you think it should be.” Not to be deterred, I whipped out some reserve stock and kept on – fervently stirring stirring stirring an increasingly difficult to handle mass of rice and mushrooms like a witch over her kettle. Sweat started to bead up on my back. I whispered curses at the brew. I was hungry. I needed a shower. And the bloody rice still wasn’t done.

After an eternity – actually, 20 more minutes and another litre of stock – the rice was finally cooked through. It looked nothing like the picture, and no amount of plating magic could have made it so. I glopped it into bowls with some grated Parmesean. We ate and it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t what it’s supposed to be. Professor X commented that we were probably supposed to eat it “al dente,” which, to both of us, is code for “uncooked.”

Later that night, I set about cleaning up the epic risotto mess. Despite the fact that there was at least a cup caked onto the stove, the floor, and the wall, a great deal remained for leftovers.

“Do you want me to save this?” I asked. Professor X is mildly superstitious about throwing away rice; muttering “Anapurna” to himself if there is even a tablespoon put in the trash after dinner.

He showed up at my side. We both peered at it suspiciously.

“Well…what do you think? he replied.

“If this risotto was a person, I would punch it in its whore mouth.”

And so we chucked it into the garbage with zero apologies.

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