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This started out innocently enough. I began with a Cooking Light recipe in mind, the Mushroom-Brown Rice Risotto from the January 2012 issue. It looks delish, does it not?

Photo from MyRecipes.com

Ah, the power of talented food stylists and photographers. So, I began by making a trip to the store to pick up the items I didn’t have. Namely green beans (I wanted haricots verts, the tiny French green bean, but settled for regular) and short-grain brown rice. Unfortunately, I had failed to write “short-grain” down on my grocery list, and when I found the correct aisle at Whole Foods, I was hit with a veritable forest of brown rice options running the gamut of prices. Basically, if I’d wanted to spend $15 on rice, I wouldn’t have had a difficult time doing so. But that wasn’t my conundrum (there’s no way I’d spending that much on rice). My conundrum was that I couldn’t remember what kind of brown rice I needed. Faced with the overwhelming options, I was stymied. I stood there, paralyzed, trying to make the right decision.

I contemplated trying to use my smart phone to search for the recipe on MyRecipes.com, home of Cooking Light‘s recipes, but I know from experience that the mobile version of MyRecipes.com’s search engine is about as reliable as the weather, so that wasn’t an option.

It should have occurred to me that I was making risotto. If I were making any ol’ regular risotto, I would know that I needed Arborio rice (aka short grained). But I didn’t make the connection. Faced with $8 for short-grain brown rice and $4 for long-grain brown rice, I went with the long-grain. And bought the wrong rice.

When I got home and unloaded by groceries and checked against the recipe, I realized my mistake, but I live about 20 minutes from Whole Foods and was not about to drive back out. Instead, I began rummaging through my pantry. Though I had been trying to keep the brown rice play of the recipe (I’ve never had a brown rice risotto, have you?), I did happen to have about 1 cup regular Arborio rice in the pantry, leftover from my last risotto kick a while ago. So, I settled on that and put the brown rice in the pantry for another day and another meal.

This was only the beginning of where I diverged off the Cooking Light track. Before I knew it, I was adding Parmesan and carrots to the recipe, and reconfiguring the method, so what I ended up with in no way resembled the Cooking Light recipe I started out with hopes of making.

But it was good. Really good! I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day. The great thing about it is how versatile it is. You could sub out any veggies you have on hand, and it would turn out well. Forgive my horrible photos. It looks like porridge in these shots! But great-tasting porridge ūüėČ

parmesan chicken-and-vegetable risotto

Makes about 3-4 servings


  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio (short-grain) rice
  • 3 cups chicken broth or water
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 (16-oz.) package button mushrooms, sliced
  • 11/2 cups (1-inch) cut green beans
  • 1-2 coarsely chopped carrots
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 chicken breast, cooked and coarsely chopped (we used leftovers)
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme


  1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, and add 1 tsp. salt. Stir in rice; reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes (rice will not be done). Drain. (This step is from Cooking Light’s recipe. I assume this is to parboil the rice and get it started in the cooking process. Traditional risottos toast the rice, but I follow CL’s instruction to see how it would work.)
  2. Heat chicken broth in another saucepan over medium-high heat; maintain at a simmer. (Heating the broth means that it will be nice and hot when you’re ready to start the risotto. Let it simmer away while you do the next step.)
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté  8 minutes or until moisture evaporates and mushrooms begin to brown, stirring occasionally.
    Stir in green beans, carrots, garlic, chicken, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper; cook 4 minutes or until green beans are crisp-­tender. Place mushroom mixture in a large bowl; cover and keep warm.

    Make sure your sous chef is on hand to help.

  4. Return Dutch oven to medium-high heat; add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil. Add rice; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and wine; cook 2 minutes or until wine evaporates, stirring constantly.

    Add 1/2 cup hot broth to rice mixture; cook 3 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Repeat procedure, adding 1/2 cup hot broth at a time, stirring constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 30 minutes total. Be patient! Risotto is a labor of love. As you add more liquid, you’ll notice it become creamier and creamier. That’s the starch being released. Keep tasting the rice as you cook. You want it to be slightly chewy but tender—never mushy).

    Ignore my flecks of green. I realized at the last minute I also didn't have fresh parsley, so I threw in some dried at this stage. Use fresh if you have it though.

  5. Stir in mushroom mixture, Parmigiano-­Reggiano, and parsley; sprinkle with thyme. Serve immediately.