Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mushroom Risotto

When it comes to a winter risotto, you want it rich and luxurious, with butter and cheese, creamy and decadent.  It's that perfect, hearty, comforting dish...

There are no shortcuts when it comes to preparing risotto.  It's a bit labor-intensive.  It's needy.  It requires constant attention (i.e., stirring), for a good 20 minutes until it achieves that ideal al dente, but creamy, texture. With effort, comes reward.  And you will most certainly be rewarded in the end. No doubt about that.

I never really noticed it before, but maitakes [as in the photo below], bear a striking resemblance to chicken feet (perhaps that's why they are also commonly referred to as hen of the woods).

First you must decide what ingredients to add to your risotto -- seafood? meat? vegetables? herbs?...

Give me some mushrooms and I'm a happy gal.  Add some porcini, chanterelles, shiitakes, and/or maitakes and [OMG], I'm in heaven.  Or, use the more readily available cremini or portobello mushrooms. You can't go wrong when it comes to mushrooms, they're all good.

For this risotto, I used a combination of dried porcini and black trumpets -- totally forgot that I brought back a couple bags of dried mushrooms from a recent trip to France -- along with fresh creminis and shiitakes, with a few chanterelles and maitakes thrown in for good measure (sometimes you just need to splurge on yourself).

A big bowl of creamy, mushroom risotto was just what I was craving on a cold, wintry day like today (freezing rain and snow included).

You'll need to reconstitute the dried mushrooms for about 10-15 minutes and then strain.  Save the mushroom broth.  It goes into the risotto and is loaded with earthy and umami flavors.

A French press works well for this, but is not necessary (a bowl and a strainer/sieve works perfectly well).

The most important ingredient for making risotto is the rice.  Does the type of rice really make a difference? Yes, and here's why...

The more amylopectin (a component of starch) a rice variety contains, the more liquid it can absorb, the creamier the texture of the risotto.

Carnaroli rice is most preferable for making risotto.  Carnaroli has the highest amount of amylopectin, producing a creamy, toothsome risotto.  

Arborio is the most readily available rice for risotto.  It is a large, plump grain with much smaller amounts of amylopectin and tends to produce a somewhat starchier, stickier, less creamy risotto.

As for the cheese, you can go traditional with a Parmesan and/or Pecorino.  Or, you can also mix it up a bit. I used [hard] Pecorino, but also added a bit of softer raw cow's milk cheese (Mitica Lou Bergier Pichin from Piedmont, Italy).

Mixed Mushroom Risotto
serves 4
1 ounce dried mushrooms (rehydrated in 2 cups boiling water)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound assorted mushrooms (such as portobello, cremini, chanterelles, shiitakes, maitakes), sliced ~ 1/2 inch thick 
4 cups chicken stock or water
2-3 tablespoons butter
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio or Canaroli rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
1/2 cup grated cheese (such as Parmesan, Pecorino, and/or a combination of your favorite cheese)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped parsley for garnish

Place the dehydrated mushrooms in a bowl (or French press).  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Pour the water over the mushrooms and let steep 10-15 minutes.  Strain and reserve the liquid.  Pour the liquid into a small pot.  Squeeze out any excess water from the rehydrated mushrooms and roughly chop.  Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet.  Add the mushrooms (in batches) in a single layer (do not crowd the pan) and saute ~6-7 minutes until golden brown.  Repeat with the remaining mushrooms, adding more olive oil as needed.  Set aside.

Bring the reserved mushroom broth to a very slow, steady simmer.  In a separate pot, bring the chicken stock (or water) to a very slow, steady simmer. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large, heavy-bottomed, deep-sided pan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute 5-7 minutes until translucent.  Add the rice and saute for 1 minute.  Add the wine and saute another minute until the wine has evaporated.  Add the rehydrated, chopped mushrooms and thyme.

Ladle 1/2 cup of the simmering mushroom broth into the rice, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Repeat with another 1/2 cup of mushroom broth (switching to chicken broth, once the mushroom has been used up).  Continue to stir, adding more broth.  After 18-20 minutes, taste the rice.  The rice should be al dente but creamy in texture.

Add the reserved, sauteed fresh mushrooms and stir about 30 seconds until warmed through.  Add a tablespoon of butter and the cheese.  Stir to combine and turn off the heat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with chopped parsley.  Serve immediately.


Medha said...

I love your photography! such a vibrant and tempting pictures of risotto! I am hooked on your site now:)

Sarah said...

I've been in a winter rut lately when it comes to cooking, but you just reminded me that I have winter mushrooms to look forward to! Going to try this next week.

flask said...

i gather my own mushrooms and i am growing mushrooms in my kitchen and a risotto is a lovely thing to do with them.