If you don’t like mushrooms I feel bad for you, son. I’ve got 99 criminis and you can’t have none. If you’re scratching your head then you and I might have different musical tastes…and that’s ok. But, if you cringe at the word, “mushroom”, I suggest you turn back now. Stop reading, click away, go no further. This recipe is all about the humble fungus and I couldn’t be more stoked. I can drizzle truffle oil on almost anything and I am a notorious sneak attacker when it comes to pasta sauces and baked dishes. Our youngest caught on to my shenanigans one day when she found me finely mincing button mushrooms for a bolognese sauce. I think my children understand the ferocity of my passion for mushrooms, so they don’t dare protest as long as they don’t actually see the things. They just know better. I’m committed to the little toadstools, both the kids and the mushrooms, but I’m referring to the fungi. So committed, in fact, that I am dedicating this week to recipes that highlight the richness and versatility that they provide. Being that it’s fall and the air is starting to crisp up, I felt it appropriate to start off with some soul-warming, stick-to-your-ribs risotto. There are lots of recipes for this dish, many are very similar. And I understand why. Risotto is one of those dishes with a standard operating procedure. A formula with set base ingredients and tons of stirring. So, in order to make your risotto unique, you have to consider flavor profiles. Pick a base flavor and make it complex. I use both dried and fresh mushrooms, two kinds of cheeses and a good dry white wine to set mine apart in taste. This dish can be made vegetarian by subbing out the chicken stock for vegetable stock. You can also use any vegetable that suits your fancy. I favor asparagus and lemon or peas and pancetta. I hope you find this offering as magical as I do.
Sonia’s Mushroom Risotto
2 C arborio rice
5 C low sodium chicken broth, heating on low
1 C dry white wine (one you like drinking, because if it ain’t worth drinkin’, it ain’t worth cookin’ with)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
8 oz fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced or diced
2 medium shallots, chopped
1/4 C heavy cream
1/2 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 C grated pecorino Romano
1/2 C boiling water
Shaved Parmigiano for garnish
Do yourself an enormous favor and prep all of your ingredients as listed above. Once you start the risotto, you can’t walk away.
Place dried porcini mushrooms into a bowl or mug, pour 1/2 C boiling water over them, set aside and allow to steep.
With the chicken stock heating on a side or back burner over low heat, place one tablespoon of butter into a separate large saucepan over medium high heat. Add 8oz fresh crimini mushrooms and stir. Once mushrooms have become soft and water has evaporated, use a slotted spoon to remove mushrooms, set them aside. To the same saucepan, add one more tablespoon of butter and chopped shallots. Add a pinch of salt. Stir often and allow them to become soft. Add arborio rice and stir. After about 3 minutes, stirring frequently but not constantly, add wine. Stir until wine has evaporated. Add water from porcini mushrooms. Discard solid porcinis. With a large ladle, add one scoop of broth to rice. Stir constantly until at least half of liquid is absorbed. Repeat this step over and over until rice has become tender, but not too soft or mushy. About halfway into this process, add the mushrooms you cooked earlier. Once rice is cooked, add cream and stir a minute more. Remove from heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir. Add grated cheeses, a handful at a time and stir. Allow to sit at least 2 minutes before serving. Garnish with shaved cheese.
One ladle at a time! No cheating. Be prepared to stir constantly for at least 18-20 minutes. Think “slow and steady wins the race”. All good things are worth going the distance for. Trust me.
Please, if you do one thing in this life, use real Italian cheeses. If a recipe calls for Parmigiano, please don’t reach for the green can. It’s a make or break thing.