Recently, I’ve been trying to make risotto. Risotto is a northern italian rice dish that is cooked with broth until it reaches a creamy consistency. The broth can be derived from meat, fish, or vegetables, and other ingredients such as parmesian, butter, onion, and white wine are also added to boost the flavour. It is one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy, and one of the more famous italian dishes to have been introduced to North America. I chose this dish because I was interested in how other cultures cooked their rice compared to my south-eastern Chinese family that simply uses a rice cooker.
When making the risotto, I used another recipe video as I wanted to make the dish before the first official meeting between my mentor and I so I could ask him for advice on how to improve my risotto. The video i ended up using is below, and it did a pretty good job of teaching me how to cook risotto.
Now, while I did try to follow the recipe as closely as I could, some ingredients that they asked for I simply couldn’t obtain on my own. I couldn’t obtain porcini mushrooms as they are rarely sold fresh here in Canada, I couldn’t buy white wine because I’m not of legal age yet, and I couldn’t obtain carnaroli rice as my grocery store didn’t have it in stock. So, to compromise, I had to subsititute the porcini mushrooms for crimini mushrooms (brown mushrooms), the white wine for just more vegetable stock, and I used arborio rice instead of carnaroli.
So, I first prepared all my ingredients, which includes measuring and cutting all of my ingredients first. As part of this step, I have taken another video of me cutting something with a knife, which will be embeded below.
From watching this video, my mentor actually already had a few pointers to give me regarding my knifework. His first tip was to sharpen my knives, as he noted how hard my knife was coming down onto the cutting board in the video. He also pointed out how I already knew how to do a claw position with my fingers, but he did note that it had a few errors. He told me to compare how my fingers were positioned when I was first cutting the mushroom and when I was making the last cut on the mushroom at 0:09. We ended up pulling up the whiteboard function on Zoom so we could better communicate his thoughts, as I was confused at first by what he was trying to say. As seen below by the two figures on the left side of the image, I originally thought my mentor was talking about how I should make the tips of my fingers adjacent from the knife, but he said my bended finger tips was good. I then realized that he was talking about how my knuckles were angled from the knife, as shown in the two circled figures, resulting in only one knuckle making contact with the knife, creating a very unstable cutting experience. I thanked him for correcting me, and then further clarified that I should be making a rocking motion with my knife as I cut ingredients, before moving onto discussing the rest of my risotto.
My mentor and I proceeded to discuss the rest of my cooking process, which was very similary to the process in the video. We discussed how I thought the risotto was not seasoned enough in the end, and we discussed the topic of seasoning as you go so you end upi with a properly, well seasoned dish. We also touched on how I should’ve not crowded my pan as much when sauteeing the mushrooms, so less steam would be created and allow for the mushrooms to brown slightly. We also talked about how instead fo washing the mushrooms, we should clean them using a baker’s brush instead as washing them may increase the moisture content of the mushrooms, making it even harder to brown them in the pan.
Down below is a plate of the risotto I made, and I think the textures of the risotto were perfect, from the rice being a good al-dente, and the reduced broth a creamy consistency. I am quite proud of this attempt, as it was my first, but when I make it again, I’ll be sure to try and apply what my mentor suggested to me in our meeting.
Questions for this post:
1. What went particularly well during your mentoring sessions?
Something that went incredibly well during our mentoring session this week was how much information my mentor gave me and also how helpful he was. He never got annoyed at me for not having a lot of knowledge in a certain area. My mentor offerred to help me get a visual demonstration of the techniques he described during our discussions by filming himself doing them while he is at work, which I was very appreciative of. He even offerred to send me his own recipes so I could practice making chicken stock. So far, i have been really enjoying our meeting sessions with each other, and I think I’m imporving quickly with his help.
2. What relationship challenges did you face?
a. Were you communicating effectively with one another? Explain
Yes, I would say we were communicating effectively with one another. We always made sure to listen respectfully to each other and allow each other to finish talking before we responded. We made sure to ask each other to clarify their points so that we could understand their thoughts better. We would also ask questions to each other to further our understanding of each other’s cooking process.
b. Were you candid and open in your communication? Explain
Yes, I was open and candid in our communication. For example, I didn’t try to hide the fact that I had made some mistakes in my cooking, and openly shared them with my mentor in order to further improve my cooking skills. I also made sure to be brief, and concise when going over how i cooked my risotto.
c. Were you actually listening to each other? Explain
Yes, I would say so, as we often asked follow-up questions on what the other had just said to further clarify our own understanding. We also made sure that we weren’t doing anything else while listening to the other person, showing that they had our full attention and we were actively listening to them speak.
3. What learning challenges emerged?
A learning challenge that emerged was how we had challenges visualizing what the other was sometimes describing in our discussions. For example, I had trouble visualizing what my mentor was saying about my finger placement when using the knife in my youtube video, and I ended up having to clarify with my mentor by drawing out what I thought they meant on the whiteboard in Zoom. This also happened to my mentor when I described why hsome chefs would make horizontal cuts in an onion when dicing them, and my mentor couldn’t visualize what I was talking about, so I had to draw out what I was talking about on the whiteboard again.
Thank you for reading! Keep an eye out for my future In-Depth blog posts.