Saturday, January 15, 2011
Comfort Food with Pure Elegance
I love risotto. It is though, a labour of love to make it and it is a dish that while preparing you just cannot turn your back on. Once you the start the cooking process risotto becomes about as high maintenance as it gets but if you do it right it is pure food love and comfort on a dish. My favorite risotto of all time (forgive me Iron Chef, Mario Batali, it isn't your Risotto Milanese!) is a fragrant Wild Mushroom Risotto, inspired by the mushrooms of northwestern Italy.
I found this recipe years ago in a Bon Appetit magazine, clipped it out and tucked it into my recipe box. I knew it would be a lot of work and it took some time before I got up enough courage to try my hand at this dish. It took me a couple of tries to get it right. First it was too mushy. Next time it was too al dente but finally on my third kick at the proverbial pan I got it right. It was then I realized it came down to pan size. The first pan was too small, the second pan was way too large but the third pan, in between these two sizes was just right. I am sounding like Goldilocks meets Kitchen Confidential!
So here's the recipe, with a couple of slight alterations, which seemed to work better for me.
Wild Mushroom Risotto
Yield: 8 first course servings or 4 main course servings
5 cups of chicken broth (I've been using that organic chicken broth packaged in a tetrapack from my local green grocer)
1 package of dried Porcini mushrooms
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2.5 Cups finely chopped onions
1.5 pounds of Cremini mushrooms, finely chopped (including stems)
2 large Garlic cloves, smashed and finely minced
1 Tablespoon fresh Thyme, finely minced
1 Tablespoon fresh Marjoram, finely minced (I find it challenging to find fresh Marjoram, especially during winter months. Use dried but cut amount to 1/2 Tbsp.)
1.5 Cups of Arborio Rice (I prefer it to Cannaroli rice)
one half cup of dry white wine
one cup of freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (Please, please, please don't use that dryed packaged Parmesan. Invest in a small chunk and it keeps really well in the fridge. It simply worth every penny!)
Additional Toppings you may want to consider using:
White Truffle Oil (Tartufo Oil)
Black Tartufo (expensive little black mushrooms that come in a jar, found in most fine food stores)
Slivers/slices of fresh Parmesan
Fresh Parsley, minced & in sprigs
Bring broth to a simmer in a pot. Add Porcini 'shrooms to broth and simmer until tender (about 3 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, remove 'shrooms to plate and let cool. When 'shrooms are cooled, give them a good squeeze, return any of the juice to the broth pot, then chop 'shrooms finely. All the while keep your broth warm. You will note how the broth has gone from being yellow to a deep brown and the broth will be absolutely fragrant with Porcini scent.
In a large, heavy sauce pan, melt butter & oil over a medium heat. Add onions & cremini mushrooms and saute until tender (approx. 10 minutes). Add chopped Porcini 'shrooms and herbs and saute for about 5 minutes. Add rice. Stir thoroughly and saute for about 3 minutes. Add wine. Cook until wine is absorbed, stirring often, for about 8 minutes. Keep stirring. Begin to add warmed broth, a ladle at a time, stirring until broth is absorbed. Rice will begin to get more creamy. Continue to add broth, again only by a ladle at a time, continuing to stir, until you have finally finished stirring in all the broth. This process will take about 30 minutes.
Right as the rice is finished cooking, add in your freshly grated Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper. Immediately begin to plate the risotto. Top with additional trimmings as so desired.
I drizzle a few drops of White Tartufo oil, sliver imported black Tartufo Mushrooms and use a cheese slicer to slice off pieces of Parmesan.
This just raises the wow factor in this dish by about ten notches and is worth the extra cost if you are serving this dish for an elegant dinner party.
Finally, because this is a rice dish, one might be inclined to want to serve a white wine with it. Toss that idea aside and bring on a slightly cooled bold red wine. The strength of those mushrooms, in particular the Porcini 'shrooms give this dish enough backbone to stand up beautifully to any kick ass red.
This dish is a perfect dish for a chilly winter's night dinner. Enjoy!