Jane O’Reilly has been a favorite of mine since picking up her Indecent… trilogy last year. She’s got a completely matter of fact feminism and sex-positivity to her books that appeals to me on a visceral level even if the particular kink or sexual dynamic she’s exploring isn’t one I’m especially interested in. The Pleasure Principle, the book that the mushroom risotto comes from, was one of those books. Guilty Pleasure, which is the first book in this linked set (though they can definitely be read as stand-alones because I accidentally read them out of order) held more personal appeal, but both books were quick, sexy, satisfying erotic romance reads.
The heroine of The Pleasure Principle has just been reviewed on a Rate My Date type site by her ex-boyfriend, who gave her two stars in bed. She’s understandably rather upset by this and it has damaged her already fragile confidence. It’s true that she’s sexually rather inexperienced, she’s never had an orgasm with a partner and barely ever has them by herself, but she hadn’t thought it mattered much as long as he was satisfied. Luckily hero Cal comes along and invites Verity to a sex party. That probably sounds a little absurd, but he’s a colleague of hers and the way O’Reilly sets it up, it works. Cal is very much concerned about Verity’s pleasure and sets about figuring out how to unstick her. This could have been patronizing and awful, but instead it comes off as only a little bit overbearing, if endearingly so. The romantic arc is fast, but I wasn’t bothered by it because they already knew each other. With their explosive connection and design industry jobs in common, I didn’t have any trouble believing in their happy ending.
Guilty Pleasure also brings together two coworkers, Tasha and Ethan, rival architects at the same firm. Tasha works harder than any of the male architects to stay in the same place and, to be honest, it’s stressing her out. So much so that she allows herself a little indulgence at the end of every work day–masturbating at her desk. The idea of possibly getting caught is a huge turn-on for her. And when she eventually does get caught, it’s by Ethan. A scene ensues the next day involving her giving him a blowjob that could have been manipulative and creepy, but the sly way it was written made it instead titillating and erotic. It’s clear that Tasha is enjoying herself despite that she finds it slightly outrageous and slightly dirty (in a good way). Their romance ramps up quickly, spending a weekend together engaged in various semi-public sex acts. But when they head back to work, Tasha has a negative interaction with a client that I mention for folks with workplace sexual harassment triggers. It all works out in the end though, leaving both Tasha and Ethan better off both personally and professionally.
Guilty Pleasure edged out The Pleasure Principle for me, sexually repressed heroines not being a particular favorite of mine. However, both books worked for me for the same reason Ava Lovelace/Delilah Dawson’s erotic romance works for me. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that no matter what awful, dangerous, sexist situation an author gets her characters into, she’s always going to get them out. There is no ambiguity here, only straight-forward, woman-centric sex acceptance. I love it.
In The Pleasure Principle, Cal takes Verity out to dinner and they basically torture each other with teasing the whole meal. Verity orders this mushroom risotto. Mushroom risotto is always one of those things I want to like better than I do. Mushrooms cooked in with the rice just don’t absorb very much flavor, leading to chewy bits of texture that are generally fairly underwhelming. Like tofu, mushrooms are excellent at absorbing whatever flavors they’re cooked in though, hence the slightly deconstructed nature of this dish.
Risotto is perfect for the cold temperatures we’ve been having in the Mid-Atlantic this winter. It’s warm and filling and you get to stand in front of the hot stove for 20 minutes while you stir it. I use the America’s Test Kitchen method though, which isn’t as bad as traditional risotto for hands-on time. As it turns out, you can let the first round of chicken stock absorb on its own while you stand in the kitchen and read (or tweet, which is what I usually do). Or you could make the mushroom topping. It all depends on how comfortable you are with kitchen multitasking. Then you just have to stir for the last 10 minutes.
Finally, I used to make risotto only for company because it doesn’t really reheat very well. But that was before I discovered risotto cakes. With some mozzarella, bread crumbs and oil, you can make leftover risotto actually palatable instead of just gluey. You could also stuff them with mozzarella and some of the mushrooms for a fun little surprise. At this point I think I mostly make risotto so I can have the leftovers as risotto cakes the next day. They’re that good.
When was the last time you were excited to eat leftovers?
Makes: 6 servings
Time: 45 minutes
3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for vegetarians)
3 cups water
1 medium onion, diced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups short grain rice (Arborio preferred)
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated + more for garnish
1 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
1 1/4 pound mushrooms, diced (I used cremini, but even regular button mushrooms would be fine)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1. Heat chicken stock and water in a medium saucepan over low heat until warm.
2. In a large pot, melt 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium-high heat and add onion. Cook until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add rice and cook until ends are slightly translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add wine and stir until it is absorbed, about 2 minutes.
3. Turn the heat down to medium and add 3 cups of warm chicken stock and water mixture and stir to combine. Allow to cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed.
4. While the rice is cooking, melt an additional 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and cook for about 30 seconds. Add chopped mushrooms and cook until they start to give off liquid, about 5 minutes. Add red wine and cook until wine is mostly absorbed, about 15 minutes.
5. Once the liquid in the rice is absorbed, add the rest of the chicken stock and water mixture half a cup at a time, stirring constantly, until the rice is cooked, about 10 more minutes. Add grated Parmesan cheese.
6. Serve risotto with mushrooms on top plus a few Parmesan cheese shavings, if desired.