Mushroom Risotto

Last night was a night of favorites. Jeff and I made dinner together. We had risotto. We used delicate oyster mushrooms, hearty chanterelles and shiitakes  from the farmers’ market. And we had homemade chicken stock, a rare treat.

For a moment, the risotto took me back to our last night in Venice two years ago, when we nearly went insane looking for a particular Michelin-rated restaurant. The food we had in Italy was unbelievably good, except for the food we had in Venice. We were warned this might be the case. We needed to end our trip with a good meal, so we kept looking for this place, and we finally found it. I had risotto with squid ink. My journal entry from that night also mentions fritto misto and a creamy chocolatey dessert, but it’s the risotto I remember.

Our risotto with mushrooms last night was just as memorable, but for a different reason. There are few things better in life than to cook a meal like this with someone you love. After we put Gabi to bed, Jeff and I measured out some carnaroli rice, warmed up the stock, got the ladle ready and got to cooking. Making risotto can be intimidating. With two people at the stove — one stirring and the other grabbing ingredients and adding stock — it’s really not that  hard.

The risotto was creamy and mushrooms were earthy. The Parmesan added some tang. At the last minute I stepped outside and snipped some parsley for a sprinkle of green. We savored it with a nice bottle of wine and enjoyed the moment.

Mushroom Risotto
How to Cook Everything, Vol. 2

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
4 to 6 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil, to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio, carnaroli or other short- or medium-grain rice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
4 to 5 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1 cup sliced wild mushrooms, or shiitake or portobelle mushroom caps
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse the dried mushrooms once or twice, then soak them in hot water to cover. Put 2 tablespoons of the butter or oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally , until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with butter or oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper, then the white wine. Stir and let the liquid bubble away. Drain the porcini and chop them, then stir them in, along with about half of their soaking liquid.

Use a ladle to begin adding the stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy more dry. Stir frequently, keeping the heat at medium to medium-high. Meanwhile, put the remaining butter or oil (more will make a creamier risotto) in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and almost crisp, about 10 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Begin tasting the rice 20 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but still with a tiny bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in the cooked mushrooms, with their butter, and at least 1/2 cup of Parmesan if you’re using it. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately, passing additional Parmesan at the table.

Serves 4 to 6


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