March 11, 2008
Risotto ai funghi
There is something so warm and comforting about a nice, creamy mushroom risotto when Winter is lingering. This is what I made when we decided to have an impromptu dinner this weekend with our neighbors, Nikki and Erwin from across the street.
She and I made a last-minute decision to run to the Turnip Truck for ingredients to make risotto as she wanted to learn how to make it and I wanted to cook. The guys apparently just wanted to drink.
We bought a mixture of shitake and crimini mushrooms, arborio rice, some chicken to serve after the risotto (I made a simple saltimbocca: prosciutto-wrapped chicken breasts with crispy sage) and we were off!
When I was in Florence in 1992, the first time I lived there, I took a cooking class with my good friend Tiffany Tiberti. That is where I first learned to make risotto. I still do it the same way, slowly and stirring constantly, adding butter and parmigiano at the very end to make it creamy, and it always turns out great.
I like the starchy, creamy rice with the woodsy taste of mushrooms. But in the Spring I sometimes make it with asparagus or artichokes, and once in a while I make the traditional 'risotto alla milanese' with saffron. You could make risotto with just about anything. I once saw an Italian chef make a gorgeous butternut squash risotto with a luscious, rich Aglianico wine. Mmmmmm.
Here is my recipe for mushroom risotto: (serves 4)
1 to 1.5 cups of short-grain arborio rice (carnaroli is a good variety but harder to find)
1/2 c of diced shallot or onion
3-4 c of chicken stock
2 T butter
lots of fresh grated parmigiano cheese
salt and pepper
a variety of mushrooms -shitake, crimini, oyster, porcini
Get your stock ready by simmering it and keep the heat on very low throughout the cooking of the risotto. In another pot sautee your shallots or onions in good quality olive oil. When softened, add your rice to toast it for a minute. As soon as you smell that flavor of toasted rice, add some stock to the pot, just enough to cover the rice and stir. Let it cook a good 20 minutes, stirring often if not constantly, adding stock every time the rice has almost absorbed all the liquid. The only way I can tell if it's done is by testing it. It should have a little firmness to it, but be cooked through and starchy. When the rice is close to being done, add your mushrooms and butter, salt and pepper, stir and cook a little more. When it seems done to you, stir in the parmigiano and turn off the heat.
*Be sure to let it sit for a couple of minutes before serving. You want to eat risotto right away, but letting it sit first allows it to become even creamier and gooey-er and the flavors of butter and cheese have a chance to meld with everything else. Serve with chopped fresh parsely, more fresh grated cheese, and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.