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My Tribute to Gourmet: Risotto with Radishes
The truth is I never thought I liked risotto. My mother always ordered it, and I tasted once or twice and hated it. Now I have a thing about textures-mushy or mushy with grains in it, I don't like it. (Yet somehow I love yogurt with grape nuts. I'm just weird that way I guess.) But then a few weeks ago my mother and I were in an Italian restaurant and she ordered risotto. And it came with carrots. My mother hates carrots, and carrots weren't listed in the description of the dish, but there they were. And I LOVE carrots, so in the name of carrots I tried a bite and I realized that I do like risotto if it's al dente. Whenever I discover something I new I like (for example artichokes 2 years ago) I can almost hear "A Whole New World" playing in the background, which is odd because I've never watched Aladdin. Suddenly a whole new venue of recipes and dishes, I can see them in my head laid out on a long table with a white cloth, which makes me excited to immediately get into the kitchen and begin playing around because I've already wasted too much time thinking I didn't like this wonderful thing. Thus my risotto revelation resulted in my desire to begin making it, and just my luck the most recent issue of Gourmet included a risotto with radishes dish. I had some leftover radishes, and it seemed that Destiny was trying to tell me "It's time you make risotto."

And then I found out Gourmet was folding.

I'm going to digress for a moment about Gourmet. When I was little, I remember my mother getting Gourmet and leafing through the pages. This was back when my mother cooked, and we had family dinners every night. I knew that Gourmet was important to my mother, which is why I recall the following incident so clearly. My mother had angered me. I don't remember why, but I was mad. And being me, I decided to seek revenge, so I tore up the front page of the latest Gourmet. My mother hadn't even looked at it yet. It had a bunch of purple wet grapes on the front, I think. (It could just as easily have been blueberries.)

But my revenge was calculated. By tearing up the front page, I knew it was bad and I was interfering with her enjoyment of the magazine. However, I also understood there was just an ad on the other side of the page. I wasn't destroying anything with real content. So my revenge was calculated to be hurtful, but even I wouldn't destroy the precious contents, which were the real value of the magazine.

This is how far back my memory of Gourmet goes. In high school, when my mother had long stopped cooking and dedicated her entire caloric intake to rice cakes with peanut butter, I began to cook. Instead of showing me how to make things, she would simply tell me where to find the recipe in the recipe books. And this is how I began to teach myself to cook. I couldn't sleep at night in CT and so often I would begin making elaborate dishes at 11 only to finish cooking around 1 or 2. I would make steak au poivre, potatoes dauphinoise, or minestrone in the middle of the night. I would leave the leftovers in the refrigerator and put a note on the table so my mother would know that should she wish to eat actual food it was available.

Thus my mother got me a subscription to Gourmet, which I enjoyed throughout high school. In college, I didn't have a kitchen, but while in graduate school I discovered Epicurious. Glory be! I didn't need Gourmet anymore to get recipes from Gourmet! Until a few months ago when Gourmet sent me an offer I couldn't refuse and even though I like Epicurious there is something about getting Gourmet. Maybe it's that I remember watching my mother read it as a child. Maybe it's all the dishes I learned how to make when I was in high school. Or maybe it's just that it's one of the last great magazines. But when I found this out, in the wake of 2 of my favorite restaurants closing (We Liang Ye, which was written up by Gourmet, and Payard) I thought "This is truly the end of American Culinary culture." (I know, I know. I'm a drama queen.)

This is not to say that Gourmet didn't have bad moments or contribute to hours of my time lost to make some dish that was only so-so. I remember one dish in particular-a white bean dip that they claimed could be made in a food processor OR blender. NOT TRUE. Only Cthulhu could make this stuff in the blender and not lose his mind, but I wouldn't give up. Unfortunately, the result did not nearly warrant the hour and half of sweating, cursing, swearing, and improvising so I could serve it to my then boyfriend and my mother who were decorating the Christmas tree.

Or even more entertainingly, in the back of issue there was a list of specialty cocktails including a long island iced tea. For some reason, despite the fact that ALL the other recipes had the serving size listed under the title and before the ingredients list, this recipe had the serving size at the end. Thus everytime I would mix a long island iced tea, it wasn't until I got to the bottom of the recipe I would see "Serves 2" and realize I had to drink a double all on my own. Somehow, I never remembered this and made the mistake over and over. Still, I'm filled with nostalgia for even the more trying moments I had with Gourmet, and so I wouldn't give them up. It makes it easier for me not to give them up that most of the time I would make a recipe, realize I screwed up after the fact, and still get something delicious out of it as well as a lesson learned.

As such, I felt morally bound to make a tribute to my love of Gourmet while it still was around. And so exhausted on a Friday, I set to work in my postage stamp of a kitchen making risotto for the very first time. And let me just tell you not only was the dish MADE OF AWESOME, I even managed to make it look pretty, which I NEVER PULL OFF. So it seemed like a fitting tribute to one of my favorite periodicals ever.

If you do make this, a note. The radish salad and risotto work well on their own if you're as nervous about putting radish salad on top of the risotto as I was. You can try them separately and then try a bit together just to be sure that they work. Also I used regular chicken soup because, well, I had it and I didn't want to run out to the store again. Long story short, you can use regular chicken broth and just omit the salt later. Seriously, it'll be fine.

So in closing, thank you Gourmet for all the the articles, the food porn, the tips, the hours spent in frustrating contemplation of "how the hell did they pull this off in 35 minutes in the test kitchen?", the fantasies about owning a kitchen large enough to include some of the fabulous equipment you showcased, the recipes clipped with the best intentions of being made that week but somehow patiently waited for years before they were attempted, the "Eureka" moments when I tried a new dish that on paper seemed questionable, but on the palate were a revelation, the "crack bar" recipe (chocolate and caramel covered graham crackers) that is the hit of every party, and, most importantly, the accidental double long island iced teas. I'll never forget you...mainly because I still have a backlog of about 400 recipes to make from old issues. So you'll still be a part of my life, which is good. It's very very good.

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