Recently, CNN posted an article about the boom in culinary mysteries. The article posits many reasons for people’s enjoyment of culinary cozies, but leaves out the one that brings me back time and again—I just like food. I like reading about it, preparing it, and, most of all, eating it. So it’s odd that I’ve never cooked anything I found in a mystery. Some of the recipes, after all, look absolutely delicious.
With that in mind, I decided to prepare courses directly from cozy mysteries, adding the one thing I like in a cookbook that you don’t find in the mysteries—pictures. Here’s an appetizer from Avery Aames’ debut cheese shop mystery, The Long Quiche Goodbye. This smoked salmon and mascarpone risotto is suitable for either a main course (serves four) or an appetizer (serves 8).
If you’re not familiar with cooking risotto, you may find it odd that you absolutely must taste the rice after the last of the stock has been absorbed but before the other ingredients are added. A wide variety of factors make Arborio rice absorb more or less liquid, and if you’re not careful you might end up with crunchy rice. I had to add 3/8 cup of extra water to get my rice to the correct consistency. Unlike long grain rice, Arborio should also be stirred frequently while cooking. In fact, risotto is one of the few things you cannot over-stir!
RECIPE: RISOTTO WITH SMOKED SALMON AND MASCARPONE
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, chopped
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (I used a dry Sauvignon Blanc)
2 3/4 cups chicken stock (I substituted vegetable stock because we don’t eat meat, just fish)
1 1/2 cups spinach, julienned
1/4 cups fresh chives, minced
4 ounces smoked salmon, chopped into bites
1 cup mascarpone cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a 6-quart saucepan. Add shallot and onion and cook until wilted, approximately 3 minutes. Add rice and stir for 30 seconds. Add wine; stir to sizzling. Add 1 cup stock and bring to boil. Turn heat down immediately and simmer.
When rice absorbs most of the liquid, add 1 cup more stock. Repeat until all stock absorbed, approximately 10 minutes. Add water if needed (up to 1/2 cup) until rice tastes right. (Add 1/8 cup at a time, stir in, let rice absorb, then taste again.)
Add spinach, chives, and salmon. Mix and cook 3-4 minutes.
Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and rest of butter.
Set on warm plates, garnish with chives. Serve IMMEDIATELY.
Laura K. Curtis lives in Westchester, NY, with her husband and 3 dogs who’ve taught her how easily love can co-exist with the desire to kill. She's the author of the romantic suspense novels Twisted and Lost, blogs at Women of Mystery, and can also be found on Twitter and poking her nose into all sorts of trouble in various spots around the web.