Risotto, Risotto, Risotto!

An introduction, you only need to watch until about 3:30 (This one’s for you, any David Tennant fans out there):

Risotto is a dear friend of mine. People are always asking me, “what’s your favorite thing to cook” which has got to be one of the hardest questions in the world for me to answer. I love cooking as a whole event, not a specific recipe. Chopping vegetables, sizzling onions, dashes of allspice… this is why I love cooking. Its sounds, smells, the focus it requires, and the creativity it inspires.

If I had to pick one dish though, only one, it would be risotto. It’s a slow process that requires constant attention. You know how people say having children brings you a new feeling of being so entirely needed? Well risotto is a lot like that. It’s like a baby, satiated by one ladle of broth until absorbed and then crying for another. I wholeheartedly recommend going to your local wine shop and picking up a nice bottle of white for this recipe. Ask for a recommendation and be sure to mention that you’ll be using it for a mushroom risotto. Perhaps you want to place a limit on price range, but remember, the cooking process requires time, so you might as well enjoy the rest of the bottle while you stir, stir, stir!

Only picture I had of my dear mushroom risotto! Here’s is the plate at last year’s holiday dinner. Risotto’s is back left, our magnificent homemade pierogi front left, classic veggie salad back right, and some cabbage front right. I did mention that I’m Polish, right? 😉

While there are many variations you can consider, like another personal favorite: beet risotto, I offer to you a mushroom recipe. It calls for cremini and chanterelles for flavor and white button mushrooms for substance. Creminis (young Portobellos) tend to be widely available and by all means use fresh chanterelles if you feel so inclined. I happen to have used them in their dried fashion more often than fresh. My polish family and our friends are notorious for foraging for fresh chanterelles (a.k.a. corki) at Myles Standish Forest in Carver, MA. Also, after rehydrating the dried chanterelles, you can incorporate that flavorful soaking liquid into the dish. Just be sure to scoop gently because some dirt/sand will likely have settled to the bottom.

Risotto Specific Tips:

  • Stir constantly, seriously, no joke. Don’t leave that baby alone. You’ll ensure even cooking and get that essential creamy texture by doing so.
  • Be sure to scrape any lingering rice kernels from your pot edges. These guys left behind will harden and result in the occasional rock in your fantastic finished dish. Which just might result in a broken tooth at the dinner table, and nobody wants that.
  • How do you know when to add more broth? Look for this: as you stir the rice and create valleys, pay attention to the liquid remaining. Once you hit the stage that your utensil (I prefer a wooden spoon) reveals the pan, and liquid slowly seeps from the rice, you know you’re ready for more.

Here is a little tip regarding spice. If you do not already do so, toast first thing and build from that base. Applying that bit of dry heat at the beginning really opens the flavors encased in your spices and releases the oils they contain. Once you’ve reached that fragrant stage, just add the oil and begin to saute as per usual. When it comes to garlic in a recipe, I prefer to add it a little after the onions have started to cook. Garlic seems to be one of the easiest things to burn and once you do, there is no going on from there. Burnt garlic has to be one of the most awful flavors.

Mushroom Risotto

1 onion
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
olive oil
1 cup of Arborio rice
¼ cup of dry white wine
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 ½ to 2 T of butter
0.5 ozs. dried cremini mushrooms
7 ozs. white button mushrooms
7 ozs. chanterelles mushrooms (dried or fresh)
3 tbsp of chives
freshly grated Parmigianino Reggiano
salt and pepper
nutmeg
sweet paprika

  1. Mise en place: set up broth on the stove, boil water and soak creminis, chop onion, garlic, chives, and clean and slice button and creminis. Measure out wine, rice, and butter.
  2. Heat pot, and toast paprika with a dash of nutmeg. Start with about a teaspoon and you add more to the final product if you so desire. Add olive oil. Once hot enough, add onions and begin sautéing, 2 minutes in, add garlic. Sauté until translucent.
  3. Add rice and stir until coated and a little toasted, then add wine and stir until absorbed.
  4. Add a ladle full broth and stir until absorbed, repeat about 3 times including liquid from soaked mushrooms. Right after last addition, add mushrooms (including chopped chanterelles) and chives. Stir to combine and add salt, pepper, nutmeg, and sweet paprika to taste. Cook until rice has absorbed enough liquid and is still firm, and you’ve reached the consistency you desire.
  5. Take off heat and stir in butter, then add parmesan.

While all that seafood is not exactly my cup of tea, look at that risotto technique! One day my friends, one day, we all need something to aspire to 🙂

p.s. Here’s a crazy article regarding the James Beard conference going on tomorrow called “Creating a Better, More Sustainable Food World We Can Trust”, quiz yourself on how much you know about our agricultural industry.

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