My eyes lit up when a colleague asked me how to prepare a perfect mushroom risotto. Risotto is my specialty, especially mushroom, and it’s one of my favorite dishes to prepare for impromptu guests. Some Arborio is always on hand in my pantry and there are bound to be vegetables or anything else I can throw in.
Let’s get a few things straight – it is not that painful to make risotto. Yes, it does require about 20 minutes at the stove, constantly stirring but you can leave it unattended for a few minutes if you have to, say, run to the loo. Just don’t let the liquid absorb completely.
My mother invariably makes risotto with chicken broth but a veggie stock is perfectly acceptable and it’s an easy dish for that pesky vegetarian friend you never know what to cook for. What is not acceptable is cream – the creaminess of risotto stems from the slow release of starch during the cooking process and not by adding tons of cream at the end. Because it does take 20 minutes start to finish, most restaurants can’t afford to prepare every single risotto from scratch so they par-cook the rice and finish it when the order comes in, which is why they need to add cream. If you order risotto and the server informs you it will take up to 30 minutes that is when you know you are getting the real thing (there is only one restaurant in LA where I came across it).
And now to the mushrooms. I used to swear by porcini only but fresh porcini are hard to find so I typically go for a mix of dried porcini and shiitake. Reconstituting the dried mushrooms adds another 20 minutes but the flavor punch is well worth it.
And here we go. S, this is for you.
RECIPE – Serves 4
10 oz Mixed Fresh Mushrooms (Shiitake, Chanterelles etc)
1 to 2 oz Dried Porcini Mushrooms
6 C Vegetable or Chicken Stock, heated
5 T Butter
3 T Olive Oil
1/2 Yellow Onion, finely chopped
2 C Risotto Rice (Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone)
1 ts Thyme
1/4 C Dry White Wine
1/2 C Parmesan Cheese, grated
- Reconstitute the dried porcini in 1/2 C of warm water for about 20 minutes. Rinse them well to remove all the grit, dry and chop. Strain the water through a very fine sieve or a cheesecloth. Set aside.
- Clean, dry and chop the fresh mushrooms. Heat 3 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil in a sautee pan and add the fresh mushrooms. Saute briefly to release some of their liquid. Add thyme and a pinch of salt. Drain and set aside.
- In a sauce pan, heat the remaining olive oil on medium heat. When hot, add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add the rice and stir until well coated. Pour in the wine and cook until nearly entirely evaporated.
- Start ladling the stock, one ladle at a time and stir until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the dried porcini and keep on adding broth and the reserved water from the mushrooms.
- 10 minutes into the cooking process, add the fresh mushrooms. Continue adding stock until the rice is cooked – the grain of rice should be soft on the inside but still have some bite on the outside.
- Remove the risotto from the heat. Stir in the remaining butter and the parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.