The Wikipedia article on glutamates provides a handy list of some common savory food items and their respective concentrations of both free and compound glutamates. This gave me an idea.
Free glutamates are responsible for umami, the basic taste I have previously discussed here. My goal for tonight’s risotto was to make the most umami-saturated, savory, salty, meaty (yet meatless) and satisfying risotto ever. To this end I employed tomatoes (with 140 milligrams of free glutamates per 100 grams), shōyu, (782 milligrams), Parmesan cheese (1200 milligrams), and of course, Marmite (1960 milligrams). I also used one of the most umami fungi in the forest, porcini mushrooms, along with the juice you get when you rehydrate them – which I have been saving in the freezer for months for a special occasion. I also threw in a splash of the black tea I was drinking (black is the most umami of teas thanks to its fermentation) on a whim.
When I cook, I think of umami as a foundation; a sturdy basement upon which to build a solid home out of other, more up-front flavors. Today I built my home out of garlic, in three forms: sautéed, fried, and roasted. The result was a garlicky-but-not-too-garlicky, sweet and tangy risotto with a deep, subtle stew-like quality punctuated by the lively textures of porcinis and whole tomatoes. Please enjoy.
Triple Garlic Umami Risotto
about 3/4 cup short-grain white rice
about 4 cups liquid reserved from rehydrating dried porcini mushrooms
about 1 1/4 cup beef stock (substitute vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
1 bulb garlic
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
about 12 cherry tomatoes
1 handful dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated
about 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons Marmite
2 tablespoons malt vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons black tea
ground white pepper, to taste
salt, to taste
about 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Roast tomatoes, whole, using your preferred method of roasting. Remove and discard skin and reserve juice.
- Cut the top off the bulb of garlic, exposing the cloves. Drizzle or brush with olive oil and salt lightly, then roast for about 20 minutes in a 400ºF oven, or until cloves are soft and lightly browned. Let cool and squeeze cloves out of the bulb and set aside.
- In a medium stock pan, combine porcini liquid, stock, and juice from roast tomatoes. Salt to taste.
- Heat about two tablespoons olive oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Add sliced garlic and cook until brown and crisp. Remove from oil, drain on paper towel, and reserve.
- Reheat oil. Sauté minced garlic and shallots with salt and white pepper until shallots are just translucent. Add rice to the pan and stir well to coat with oil. Increase heat and keep stirring to toast rice.
- When rice turns opaque, add malt vinegar and soy sauce, then reduce heat back to medium.
- Add a ladleful of stock and cook, stirring often. When most of the liquid has evaporated or been absorbed, add more stock and continue stirring. Repeat this step several times until rice has nearly finished cooking.
- Add roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, whole roasted garlic cloves, and tea and cook until liquid is mostly gone.
- Add cheese, Marmite, and a small amount of olive oil. Stir to melt cheese evenly. Garnish with fried garlic chips and serve immediately.