Mushroom Risotto for Any Season

Remember all those posts I did about great summer food? And how I love to eat seasonally?
IGNORE THEM.
For today at least.
Because today is an ode to everything that is fatty, carby, creamy and decidedly winter-y. 
Hello, risotto.
Risotto is basically savory rice pudding. It is made with arborio rice, which is a type of Italian rice that releases starches when it is mixed with liquid that makes it amazingly creamy and rich without adding any cream or eggs! It really tastes like you enriched it, but…you didn’t! Well, there might be a LITTLE butter in there…
 But you start with an olive oiled deep stockpot. Use regular here, no use to waste the pricey extra virgin stuff. 
 Spring shallots are in season now. I find them INCREDIBLY sweet and mild – no crying here! They are almost sugary, and add a really nice element to the heartiness of the rest of the risotto. Of course, regular shallots or even a sweet yellow onion would work well here. 
 Chop up 2 of them,
 and toss them in the pot!
Now throw all the contents of your standard sized box/bag of arborio rice in there. It might not seem like a lot, but this thing grows like it’s on steroids…trust me.
If you have a pat of truffle butter in the fridge, might want to add a tablespoon of that, too. Truffle butter is just what it sounds like – sweet butter with flecks of intoxicating, earthy truffle in it. There is no substitute for the flavor of truffles, and truffle flavor is one (mildly) less expensive way to enjoy these fabulous fungi. Of course, regular butter works too.
Now you want to toss the rice around in the pan while the butter melts, making sure that each grain gets coated in fat. This is an important step, and really brings out the savory taste of the rice. Let it cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the rice looks lightly brown in some spots of the grain, and there is a toasty smell.
And here are our other starring ingredients: Enokis, morels, chanterelles and thyme. Use any mushrooms you like, but morels are really as close to whole truffles as us plebeians get. Soft in texture, deep and woodsy in taste, it is umami personified. The chanterelles have a buttier, lighter taste to me, and the enokis are there mostly for texture. The thyme echos the mushrooms woodsy tastes and fresh herbs jsut make anything better.
Now you toss in those ingredients – and by this time, the rice should be toasted, and…
Start pouring in warm chicken stock. The back of the box/bag will tell you how much liquid you need (although I needed a LOT more than it said we would).You have to do this slowly, and stir CONSTANTLY so that the risotto has time to absorb all the liquid and release its creamy starches before you bombard it with more liquid. If you don’t stir it, the risotto will totally burn, and/or cook unevenly. Nothing worse than risotto that is partially overcooked and partially hard and crunchy.
Sadly, I know this from experience. 
So you just want to ladle in the warm stock, ladleful by ladleful,
stirring,
and stirring. 
If you run out of chicken stock because you needed TWICE the amount of liquid that the recipe on the back of the bag said you would, don’t worry…just toss some wine in there. This was a light pinot grigio that I really thought worked well with the heaviness of the dish. 
And over about 30 minutes, the rice will plump and absorb the liquid, 
becoming thick and soft. 
While the risotto is soft but not mushy, you want to turn off the heat, add about a cupful of of grated Parmigiano Regianno (although Pecorino would be AWESOME here too).
And the zest of one lemon. Just zest it right into the pot. This is REALLY a surprise ingredient that you don’t taste alone, but that elevates the entire dish. 
If you have never had risotto, you are in for a treat. Hell, even if you HAVE had it you are in for a treat! Risotto is one of those things that should be served piping hot, and it can’t get much hotter than from being straight from your own stove. The rice is creamy but toothsome, tender but not mushy. The mushrooms are so hearty that they are almost meaty, and the lemon zest adds freshness while the thyme makes the mushrooms even earthier. The truffle butter adds a hearty, heady taste – a little goes a long way – and if you have a little truffle oil to add to the finished product, that pushes it over the TOP in the delicious category. This is creamy, hearty, rich and really just freakin decadent. If you have any leftovers, you can make some super delicious arrancini.
But don’t worry…you won’t have any leftovers.

Comments

  1. MegRuth says:

    You make it sound SO delish! I am a heathen who doesn't do risotto.

  2. Dee says:

    Ahhh – something other than ramps or asparagus. Don't get me wrong…I love those things. But refreshing to see something else! YUMMMMMM.

  3. Lauren says:

    Ohhh my, do I love a mushroom! This looks divine… and just what a little Italian gal like myself needs ALOT of :)

  4. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @MegRuth-Do you not like rice or not like mushrooms? Because you can TOTALLY do the mushrooms with a pasta and it would be fab!
    @Dee-i am in your boat, lady!! And the morels are SO delish right now!
    @Lauren-hahahahha and a little Jewish Girl needs it too ;)

  5. Pietro says:

    Very interesting, I'm a 100% true Italian who learned to do risotto from his mother and I must admit that your recipe is almost perfect…
    Just one or two things that I've learned "on the field":
    1 The best variety of rice for me to do risotto is "vialone nano"
    2 I discovered that cooking mushrooms a little bit BEFORE adding rice make them more "creamy" (I.e: you put oil, mushrooms, herbs, you wait 5 minutes and then you add rice)

    Take a look at http://www.risovialonenano.net/ricette

    Ciao
    Pietro

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