Well, this was a first for me! I decided to make mushroom risotto to go with our Chilean Sea Bass for dinner. I have never made risotto before and definitely WILL again! It turned out deliciously. Take a look at the end result:
Isn't it lovely? The arborio rice didn't break down and turn gummy. It was creamy yet each kernel maintained its shape with just a hint of translucence! It was just slightly "al dente" just like it was supposed to be! One can't forget to put the shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on the top. It was sooo good that I wanted to rub it all over my body! My Darling Husband stood and watched the transformation from start to finish. He was so very proud of me! Heck, I was proud of me! Here are some hints -
1. Don't over stir. Don't be afraid to stir. Be gentle, but no need to pamper the rice. Twice around the pan would be perfect.
2. Add your broth 1/2 cup at a time. ONLY add the broth after you can (think about Moses and the Red Sea here)part the rice by dragging your wooden spoon from one side of the pan to the other through the center of the pan. The rice should STAY in place with no filling in of the gap made by dragging the spoon. With my heat at medium high, it was about ever two minutes until toward the end when I had to lower the heat to medium and add the broth more frequently because the rice was almost done and absorbing the broth quickly.
3. Save your mushroom broth. After the dried mushrooms had cooked and softened, I put a paper towel in the mesh strainer. Then, I poured the Shitake mushroom stock through the paper towel into a bowl so it would collect any undesirable particulates.
4. Prep your veggies anytime before you start the cooking process. You could even do it a day or so ahead of time and bag them in zip bags kept in the fridge until you need them!
Start with the text in red. Next, go to the blue text. Lastly, go to the black text. This is the sequence I used to complete the recipe. It worked out better for me than the way the recipe was originally written.
Mushroom Risotto - serves 6
2 cups short grain Italian arborio rice *
1 medium yellow onion (I used half of huge white onion)
3 large cloves garlic (I used 4 because 1 was small)
3 tbsp butter, divided (I used 4 and saved 1 for the end when I added the cheese)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
500 g (1 lb) cremini mushrooms **(I used two generous handfuls of dried shitake & half a package of freshly sliced crimini mushrooms I had in the fridge)
2.5 tsp dried thyme, divided
1 cup white wine *** (I used 1 1/2 C.)
6-8 cups chicken stock ****(we used about 4 cans)
1/4 cup Marsala (I used 1/2 C.)
200 g (1 cup) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
salt and pepper to taste
* A starchy short grain rice is your best bet for a creamy risotto and the shape should be round or semi-round/oblong. Arborio rice is quite common and easily available in most supermarkets, but just in case there are other alternatives like Vialone or Nona. What you do not want to use is a long grain rice, or a quick cooking/parboiled rice because you won’t be able to achieve the right consistency.
** This recipe works delightfully with regular ol’ button mushrooms in a pinch, but you can also substitute your favorite woody wild mushrooms instead.
*** Not a drinker and you don’t want to use white wine? No problem, you can add the equivalent volume in stock. But…pssst – if you’re averse to cooking with alcohol, you might not be too keen on the Marsala either, and I vote that it stays.
**** To make this dish vegetarian you could use a good quality and flavorful golden vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
Pour the stock into a medium pot and place it over medium heat. As soon as the stock is hot, but not boiling, turn down the heat and leave it to stay warm. Keep it - along with a ladle and measuring cup close to your rice pot
Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic. Do show a bit of care in this, because if you’re going to go to all the effort of crafting a rich, creamy and delicious risotto, it would be a shame to ruin the texture with big chunks of onion.
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the some of the oil (you will have 1 tbsp of each left) in a large heavy bottomed pot set over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic for 4-5 minutes until they are soft and translucent, being sure that the heat is low enough for the aromatics to cook without browning or burning. When done, I put them on a paper plate until I needed them.
Add the rice (no need to rinse it first) and two teaspoons of thyme to the pan. Cook the rice in the butter for a couple of minutes until the grains are starting to turn translucent around the edges. If they get a little tan, that’s good - more flavor - think Rice-a-Roni! I made sure the rice grains were all shiny from the oils. Now, return the onion and garlic to the rice and mix.
Pour the white wine (1 C.) into the rice and stir regularly until the liquid is approximately 80% absorbed, which takes 3-4 minutes.
After the wine is mostly absorbed add the stock, one full ladle (about 1/2 cup) at a time. Toward the end, I added a half cup of more wine to the remaining broth. Stir the risotto slowly and regularly as it absorbs the liquids, making sure that it does not stick and the rice cooks evenly. If you are able to “PART” the rice with no running in the space (think parting of the Red Sea), then, it’s time to add your next 1/2 c. of broth. You don’t want to be too aggressive as the rice cooks or you’ll cause damage and end up with a mush of rice rather than individual creamy grains. Just remember to keep a light hand and a keen eye on the rice as it cooks, and if you stir about once or twice per minute that should be fine. **I had the heat up on medium - medium high as I read somewhere that a high temp is good. It worked for me! My stove control panel said 6 1/2 - 7 for the heat.
From the time that you add the rice to your pot it will take about 20-30 minutes for the risotto to cook, which is the perfect time to cook the mushrooms. Chop the mushrooms into a medium dice.
I began the recipe by sauteing my chopped mushrooms in the pan I was going to use for the rice. I only used one pan for the risotto and one pan for the broth. First, I used the pan to saute the mushrooms - set aside. Next, I used the pan to saute the onion and garlic. Set aside. Lastly, I used the pan to saute the rice. and create the risotto. I wanted to make sure I could focus solely on the rice. When the mushrooms were done, I put on a paper plate.
Now back to the regular recipe - Heat the remaining oil and butter in a large pan set over medium heat (1 T. + 1 T). Add the mushrooms and cook them down for 5-7 minutes until they’re soft but still light brown with a bit of pith left in the center. Stir in the remaining half teaspoon of dried thyme.
Pour the Marsala over the mushrooms and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper to taste.
When the mushrooms are cooked through and turn to a rich mahogany brown, the Marsala will have created a thin glaze on the outside. There should still be some liquid left in the pan. If there is no liquid, add a wee splash (no more than 2 tablespoons) of the chicken stock to the pan so that the fungi don’t dry out while the risotto finishes. I put them in a bowl and set them aside. Now, I started sauteing the onion and garlic.
Go to blue section.
When the risotto is finished cooking, it will be slow to absorb any additional liquid. The rice grains should still be granular and discrete, holding their shape with just a hint of chew when you bite through. The texture of the dish should be loose but not runny. Stir in the mushrooms and all of their accumulated juices before adjusting the seasoning with more salt and pepper as you see fit.
To finish the risotto, stir in the freshly grated parmigiano reggiano. I added another T. of butter, too.
Risotto is always best served immediately when it is at it’s rich and creamiest. Although it can take some time and a fair bit of stirring, at the end of the day a fabulous risotto is quite easy to make and even easier to eat. Far, far too easy to eat…..
The Marsala lends a delicate sweetness to the earthy and savory flavors in this dish. Although it stands up well as a side dish for hefty red meats, the rich risotto is hearty enough to eat as a light meal with green salad on the side. Or…no side, with a spoon and straight out of the pot. Just sayin’.
I hope there was some sort of sense to what I wrote. Hopefully, the color coding will help. I just didn't want a kitchen filled with dirty pans. By using a saute pan with a 3" side, I was able to only use that by sequencing what I was doing. I'm sorry if I've confused you.
Have a great weekend and don't be afraid of making risotto. Hopefully, there is a helpful hint or two included in my essay above!