By 28, the outline of your life has been plotted out. Nothing is final yet--chapters may be omitted or reshuffled, there might be a plot twist halfway through and the ending will turn out completely differently than you expected--but the trajectory has been set. You're pretty sure that your book is going to be, say, a quirky little novel set in 1920s New York. That might change--maybe Boston is better, in the 1960s--but you've at least settled on a genre. You know that you're not writing a get-rich-quick self-help manual or a pasta cookbook.
You've also come to understand certain truths about your main character--yourself. By 28 I've realized that I'm not going to go to law school, or move to Prague, or have a dissolute phase in which I date deadbeat musicians. I've also accepted that I am never going to have really fabulous hair. My hair is nice enough: medium-brown, moderately thick, with blond highlights that my hairstylist aunt once told me would be expensive to replicate in a salon. But my hair just kind of hangs there, without the verve displayed in a shampoo commercial hair toss. I had always thought that this would come in time, that one day I would just wake up with perfect hair. But actually--and this should have been obvious to me long before I hit my late 20s--such hair takes styling effort and more expensive haircuts that the ones I get on sale at the strip mall. Really fabulous hair will never happen to me, because I am too lazy and cheap.
Not all of my revelations about my character are negative. True, I am too lazy for early-morning hair styling. But I do have the patience for weeknight risotto.
Weekday dinners are a delicate balance for me--they have to be good enough so that the anticipation will tide me through the afternoon, but they can't be so complicated that I disintegrate into hunger and irritation before the food makes it to the table. That's where this risotto comes in. It's delicious--I don't think you can ever go too far wrong with butter and rice, enriched with a dash of lemon juice and bulked out with peas and salmon. Although there's a certain amount of fussing to cook the risotto, the mix-ins require no preparation--you just open a can of salmon and measure out some frozen peas. Then squeeze in some fresh lemon juice and call it a day.
The wine adds a subtle depth, but it's not essential. You can omit it if you don't have any on hand.
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
- 3/4 cup Arborio rice
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 cup frozen peas
- (5-ounce) can skinless boneless pink salmon, drained
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a small saucepan, bring stock to a boil. Reduce heat to low.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about two minutes. Stir in rice and cook, stirring constantly, until rice is glossy and coated with butter, about one minute. Add wine and stir until the wine has evaporated.
With a ladle, begin adding the stock a 1/2 cup at a time. Turn heat up to medium-high. When stock is almost evaporated, add more. Continue in this manner, stirring frequently.
When only 1/2 cup of the stock remains, stir in the peas and salmon. Add remaining stock and cook until the rice is tender, but not mushy, and peas and salmon are warmed through.
Remove from heat and stir in salt and pepper. Add Parmesan and mix thoroughly. Finally, stir in the lemon juice.