The HeartBreak Risotto
By Karima Danao
It’s the darnedest thing. You curse the heavens; you question the gods. Why you? You who had behaved extremely well this year. Yes, you’d made some serious judgment errors before but you’ve already rectified that. No more maniacal comments about mates who aren’t yours. No more unnecessary justifications of your idealistic views concerning friendship. What has passed is past. You’ve learned your lessons. You are striving to be better.
Naturally, you think the universe is rewarding you for this recent good behaviour for why else would you catch the attention of someone whom everyone practically wants to be best friends with? You’re new in the circle. You still feel like a newborn babe, moving your way through this unrecognizable terrain, cautiously opening yourself up to fresh experiences.
Perhaps you’re just a novelty, arousing the interest of one who’s been there quite a while, who has mingled with the same boring faces and has laughed at the same old jokes.
But three months into this series of voluptuous pasta dinners and late-night dates with Pinot and Grigio, you begin to wonder whether this is still a momentary tryst. Especially when your days are peppered with amorous calls and you notice that the littlest personal details you’ve shared are meticulously remembered.
Slowly, you slip into a comfortable familiarity, batting not even a single eyelash when you get asked if it’s ok to come over for a bit of past-midnight Strega. You clearly enjoy the company, even with a noticeable absence of any audible sound between the two of you. The subtle caresses, the gentle nuzzles, the tender glances… This wordless communication is what’s consuming you, prepping you, setting the stage for you… to fall in love.
After seeing sleepovers becoming the norm, you start making a habit of leaving handwritten messages on the kitchen countertop. Blame the old-fashioned fool in you who still believes there’s something intrinsically romantic about ink on paper, an inexplicable seduction that comes with holding that which was earlier touched by another. You want to keep this practice alive, even if your tesoro hasn’t quite picked it up yet.
So imagine your excitement when upon returning from a month-long holiday, you see an unfamiliar note on that countertop. Ahh! Finally, one for you. That red heart on the face of the tiny folded paper is just too ‘Aaaaaaaw.’ Admit it. You’re smiling like a total idiot.
With a million butterflies flapping their stupid wings inside your belly, you eagerly flick the paper open…
The note is not for you. The affectionate words were meant for your inamorato but no. You know it’s definitely, unequivocally not from you.
The room suddenly grows sombre. Wasting nary a second, you replace the paper and dash out the door. You skip the lift, letting the stairwell be the sole witness to the wave of nausea rapidly catching up on you. With a myopic determination to keep those lacrimal glands from spilling their precious cargo, you drive towards the only three places you know that can console you right now: the dairy display, the pasta aisle and the charcuterie counter.
Disbelief engulfs your thoughts. Of all times, why has karma decided to come back NOW?
You’ll let those tears flow. Maybe for days. But tonight, you’ll prevent yourself from burning his house down by listening to nothing but the gurgle of the simmering broth, the crackle of the chorizo on a crazy hot skillet, the rasp of the Parmigiano-Reggiano as you rabidly rub it against the grater.
Let karma be the b*tch. At least this one you know is special. This one you know is real.
Note: This recipe serves 2-4. If heartbreak is involved, this is enough for 1.
6 cups chicken stock
1⁄8 tsps saffron threads
12 tbsps unsalted butter, cubed
250 gms Spanish chorizo, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or grana padano
1. Bring stock to a gentle simmer in a saucepot over medium heat. Transfer 1⁄2 cup hot stock into a small bowl together with the saffron threads. Cover and set aside. Cover stock and keep hot on the lowest setting.
2. Heat 4 tbsps butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped chorizo and sauté until crisp. Reserve a few spoonfuls for garnish. Add onions to the remaining chorizo in the skillet and cook until onions are softened, about 2–3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the grains are fully coated in butter and opaque, about 4 minutes.
3. Add 1⁄2 cup stock; cook, stirring often, until stock is mostly absorbed. Add another 1⁄2 cup stock and repeat process until all the stock is used, about 20-25 minutes total. Pour saffron-infused stock into rice and cook about 2 minutes until rice is just al dente. Remove from heat; stir in remaining butter and half the grated cheese. Serve risotto topped with remaining chorizo and with remaining cheese on the side.