First, you must know the True Nature of rice. Ordinarily, rice aspires only to cook up into separate, individual fluffy grains. Risotto requires a rice that will give up its boundaries, one that is willing to merge with the grains all around it, to create One Creamy Whole.
Second, saute the rice in hot oil. All rice is born surrounded by a defensive shell. In order for our cooking liquid to penetrate, we must sear through that outer protective layer. But be careful not to burn the kernels. Excessive heat only toughens.
Third, add some sweet wine. Practicing this recipe is slow and painstaking. A little sweetness, in the pot (and in the cook), helps us stay the course. Begin a practice of continuous stirring. Never stop.
Fourth, ladle in warm broth a little at a time. Remember, “Human kind can not bear very much reality.” Don’t overwhelm the rice. Add only what it can easily absorb. But keep the heat fairly high; merely simmering will get you nowhere. Stay focused on your stirring.
Fifth, add your own flavor. I like mushrooms and peas. Some add sex and poetry; others arthritis and old age. The best chef isn’t the one who uses the fanciest ingredients, but the one who best serves up whatever is at hand.
Finally, cook to perfection. Ordinary risotto takes 20 to 25 minutes, but Zen Risotto may need 20 to 25 years before it is truly Ready to Serve. Remember, never stop stirring. Absorb Everything.
Zen Risotto, from Barry Magid of Ordinary Mind Zendo, NYC.
"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield