Alex Blaze

Very good mushroom risotto

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 31, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: recipe, risotto

Ever since I was a little kid I loved cooking. My first memory with my mother mushroom-risotto.jpgin the kitchen is hearing the old food processor she had to shred dry mozzarella and running to go and get the last little piece of cheese that the machine couldn't break down.

I spent a good part of my childhood in the kitchen, and now Alberto and I spend a good part of each day developing our game. Cooking is an organic, natural, and deep pleasure and now that I've gotten back into it I can't quit. The food also tastes so much better, on so many levels, that eating out of a jar again as I did in my first few years of independence is impossible.

At noon today I made my risotto for one of Alberto's friends who came over, and it never fails to impress (others; we've gotten over it). It's not complicated or expensive, either; the trick is in paying attention to it and the properly seasoning it at the end. The recipe is after the jump. If you're a risotto fan, feel free to share variations in the comments since I do want to expand out of my mushroom repertoire.

What you'll need

  • Dry rice, about one cup: Don't use long-grain or Basmati or jasmine or just any rice. They sell special rice for risotto called "arborio," and the grocery store I go to labels it "riz pour le risotto (risotto rice)." Sushi rice actually works too, but anything longer will dry out and won't absorb flavor.
  • Shallots or onions, about half a cup, diced: Whichever you prefer. I like shallots with risotto best, but onions are fine as well. Garlic? I've heard of people using that as a foundation flavor in risotto. Of all the crazy things I've done with this recipe over the last year, though, putting garlic in it is something I haven't built up the courage to do.
  • White stock, about one quart: Chicken or veal, if you're so inclined. I use veggie stock, of course. Canned or carton is better than cube. The flavor, though, won't matter much unless you make your own stocks at home, in which case, be prepared for chicken (or whatever) risotto instead of mushroom risotto. So veggie stock is what I use and know.
  • A good glass of good white wine: I live in Paris, so I have plenty of low-priced choices. Muscadet is the best, in my opinion, as it's the traditional wine of the beurre-blanc sauce for a reason. Otherwise, pick a wine that's not sweet and that's good enough to drink on its own. You will notice the flavor at the end, so don't think, "Oh, I have half a bottle of Cook's left from last night's party...." That's just asking for bad flavor.
  • Mushrooms, as many as you want. I like a lot. Button mushrooms work great and they're pretty cheap. Chanterelles were cheap this week so I used them at noon. Just make sure they're fresh, not canned or jarred, so they taste like something other than brine.
  • Fresh parsley, chopped. It's still summer so there's no excuse for using dried, bottled herbs. Parsley has a lot of flavor when it's fresh, not much when it isn't. And herbs aren't that expensive.
  • Parmesan cheese, about a quarter cup. Canned is fine, freshly grated is better. But canned is OK here. Not like with mushrooms. I don't know who thought canned mushrooms were a good idea.
  • Salt, pepper, olive oil, as needed.

Everything there is approximate, and I don't measure anything out. This is one of those recipes that your palate will guide you through more than measuring equipment can.

What to do

  1. Dice the onions or shallots properly. As in, not in long strips or odd shapes or big chunks - those won't mix well with the rice and will change the texture of the final product. Here's a video that explains how to do it:

  2. Chop the mushrooms. Alberto peels them, which I didn't even know was possible. They don't have to be finely chopped, but smaller than bite-sized, smaller than quartering. And remember that they'll shrink when cooked, unlike canned mushrooms.

  3. Bring the stock to a simmer. Risotto is about constant heat, and since you're going to be dousing the rice with stock throughout this process, it should already be hot to keep the whole thing at a constant temperature. This keeps the rice cooking properly.

  4. Heat a pan on high heat with some oil in it, and sauté the onions/shallots. They smell nice, don't they? They should bottle that scent.

  5. Throw in the mushrooms once the onions/shallots are tender.

  6. Throw in the rice and get it a little tan. Maybe you'll have to add a little more oil here, but don't go crazy. This shouldn't be greasy in the end.

  7. Once the rice has a little color, add the wine. This is where you're getting into the risotto part that you've heard of: a little liquid, a lot of stirring. Stir it so that it cooks evenly and doesn't stick to the pan, until the wine has been absorbed or has evaporated (it's doing both). Keep heat high. Risotto is not tomato sauce; it does not want to be slowly cooked over several hours. Risotto demands heat and attention.

  8. Add a bit of stock, and stir. Every time the stock seems absorbed, add some more and stir. You don't have to hang out over the pan and stir constantly; feel free to text message your neighbors to come help you eat the risotto right about now. But make sure it doesn't stick and that it doesn't form a skin on top (sacrilège!).

  9. Taste every now and then to see if the rice is done. My roommate in college once asked me how to tell if pasta is done cooking, since he liked throwing it on the wall but then realized that that test depends heavily on the type of wall you have. The best way to tell if a starch is done? Taste it and imagine having to eat a whole plate of that. Do you want to eat a whole plate of that, or would it hurt your teeth? This method also prevents your roommate from getting mad about rice on the walls.

  10. When the rice is done, stop adding stock, turn off the heat, and add parmesan. But don't stop stirring! Then the parmesan will just be on top!

  11. Chop and add the parsley. You could have done this earlier, too, but I like adding herbs right at the end if they're fresh as it maintains their texture. If you're not a fan, the parsley could have gone in when the rice was half-cooked.

    Now here's the tricky part OMG you're so close don't fuck this up now.

  12. Season with salt and pepper and add additional parmesan, if necessary. This makes or breaks the whole dish. Really. A poorly seasoned risotto isn't worth the rice it was made out of. Add some salt and pepper, taste, and fix it. If you're going to add more parmesan now because you want it cheesier or it doesn't have enough umami, do that before it's salty enough because parmesan jam-packed with salt. Taste and fix, but there's no way to take salt and pepper out, so go slowly

That's it. Serve it and prepare to be applauded.

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Nice recipe, similar to the one I use but mine is more "rustic" as it comes from risottoland (Lomellina, in Italy).
I only use Carnaroli or Arborio (Fino or Superfino quality) rices, instead of white wine I use Marsala (old granny recipe).

Your explanation is very good, much better than the one I put in the English version of my recipes. If you are interested I can post a few of the risotto ones, starting with the "risotto alla milanese", with a few words at the end about mushroom risotto.

Risotto alla Milanese
(Risotto Milan-Style)

The real origin of this recipe is in Lomellina (the part of the Pavia province between the Po and Ticino rivers, my land), even if the name says Milano (big city 60 km north of Lomellina) style.
Lomellina, with the provinces of Novara and Vercelli in Piedmont, produce 55% of the European rice, and the 90% of the Italian mosquitoes
It's a traditional Sunday dish (I eat it each Sunday for the first 25 years of my life and I still love it).

Serves 4:
6 cups broth (beef, capon, or vegetables*)
1/4 teaspoon saffron
7 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 ounces minced beef meat or pig sausage, optional
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 clove of garlic (optional, I use 2 cloves)
1/2 cup of white wine or Marsala wine** (both are optional)
1 1/2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rices
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (or Grana Padano or Pecorino) cheese

Heat the broth in a saucepan; set aside 1/4 cup and dissolve the saffron in it.
Melt half of the butter in a deep, wide pan, add the meat/sausage (if you use it), onion, carrot, garlic and the wine, and cook over low heat 15 minutes. Raise the heat, stir in the rice and salt, and cook 2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the broth and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed; continue adding broth and stirring until the rice is nearly cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir in the saffron broth, and cook until the rice is al dente. Stir in the remaining butter and the Parmigiano, and serve.

With risotto you can drink white or red wine, I usually drink Riesling (white) or Bonarda (red).

* for the vegetables broth I use a potato, a carrot, a stalk of celery, an onion. I prefer to mix meat and vegetables. When the broth is ready, with the vegetables (and the meat) you can make a salad: cut everything roughly, add salt, pepper, vinegar (I prefer the aromatic one), extra-virgin olive oil. I like to eat this salad while it's still warm.
**The traditional recipe use white wine but my grandma always used Marsala wine and I think it give to this recipe a richer flavour.

As for the Italian sausage, I only use "Luganega", one of the traditional Lombard sausages, but any kind of sausage (without strong flavours added) can be used. I often mix the sausage with minced beef meat.
This recipe is the "popular" one, as I learned it from my grandma and my mom, you can find on line and on recipe books more refined versions of it.
To have a mushrooms risotto I usually use dried mushrooms, I place some of them in a bowl with some water in the morning to use them in the evening. Then I will use the water (now very mushroomy) in the risotto, with the broth.

Hoping that someone will try and like it.


Maybe you'll get me to try the garlic in it....

I actually use Grana Padano, but since Parmesan is easier to find in the US I put it in the recipe.

And your stock recipe is pretty much the same as mine, although I use more herbs (usually rosemary, parsley, thyme, and bay) and a couple cloves.

Thanks for sharing!

You're welcome Alex! :-)

Actually I use both Grana and Parmesan (a good Grana can be wonderful).
My wife too love both of them.

As for garlic, I know that for many people its taste is too strong but I can't cook without it (and I don't use as much garlic as it was used in the past).
Wifey is a Texan T-girl and she didn't need much time to get used to my cooking style (she was already an Italian cooking fan), sooner or later I will convince her to try my "piatto forte": [b]Bagna Caoda[/b] a real "taste buds explosion" experience :-P

In any case, I translated in English a few of my recipes (but I noticed few minutes ago that my own "Risotto alla Luciano" recipe is missing, I will have to work on it). If you are interested I can share them here or by e-mail.

Now it's beddy time for me, ciao

GraciesDaddy GraciesDaddy | September 1, 2010 3:37 PM

This page/entry is tucked safely into my "recipes" bookmark!