Mushroom Risotto – A Bowl Full of Love
It’s cold. We’ve got snow up the wazoo and here comes Valentine’s Day. For my money nothing says love quite like a bowl of Mushroom Risotto. It’s a warm, starchy hug that you can wrap your whole body around.
It doesn’t matter if you’re saying “I love you” duo or solo, mushroom risotto is a bowl full of love. A creamy, savory rice porridge; risotto is an art in and unto itself. The secret to a good risotto is a good risotto rice, high in starch, pearl shaped, short grain rice that absorb liquids and release starch. It’s that release of starch that gives risotto that velvety quality that makes it one of Italy’s finest comfort foods.
There are several risotto rice varieties Arborio, Baldo, Carnaroli, Maratelli, Padano, Roma, and Vialone Nano. Finding the more expensive varieties – Carnaroli, Maratelli and Vialone Nano – in North America means a trip to your local Italian gourmet store. While most good supermarkets will carry a decent Baldo or Arborio. Our rice for this dish is Londigiano Carnaroni, a premium Italian rice with beautiful shape and starch.
Be sure your rice is hot, well coated with fat, and starting to become transparent before you add your liquid, which also must be hot. This is the chemistry of risotto, it’s the combination of starch, fat, heat and liquid that begins to break down the endosperm (the starchy bits on the outside of the rice kernel) giving it that signature smoothness.
The art to risotto is movement. Constant stirring helps the rice absorb maximum liquid, loosen the starchy bits and keeps it from sticking and becoming impossibly gluey.
Maybe you’re not in the mood for a warm hug, maybe you want something… more intimate. We got you covered, just grab the truffle oil and drizzle away. That musky, earthy scent takes a simple mushroom risotto and elevates it from a bowl full of love to sex, in a bowl.
And you thought it was just rice.
Mushroom Risotto Recipe
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Yield d: 4 servings
1/4 cup butter, divided
2 cups mushrooms, finely chopped (crimini, shiitake, chanterelle, or oyster mushrooms)
1/2 cup brandy or white wine
4 – 5 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a meatless meal)
1/3 cup shallots (or yellow onion), finely chopped
1 2/3 cups risotto rice (arborio, baldo, carnaroli, maratelli, padano, roma, or vialone nano)
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or chives
1. In a medium sauce pan, heat your stock over medium heat.
2 In a second, larger saucepan, melt half your butter over medium heat. Add shallots, stir and cook for about two minutes then add mushrooms. Sweat vegetables over medium heat for about eight minutes, stirring as needed until onions are transparent and cooked, but not coloured. Add brandy or white wine and cook for about two minutes, tuning to coat and flavour your mushroom base.
3. Add half olive oil and remaining butter to the cooked mushrooms and melt over medium heat. Add rice and stir, coating rice well with fat, turning and cooking for 5 or 6 minutes until the outside of the rice kernel is transparent. (see photo above)
4. Add now steaming stock, a ladle or two at a time, stirring constantly to ensure it does not stick. As liquid is absorbed, add more stock, and continue to stir. You will see the rice become more transparent, the volume will almost double. This step takes about 20 minutes, and in this time risotto needs your constant attention. Be sure to taste test for doneness, your rice should be cooked, with a firm middle, like an al denté pasta.
5. Our final cooking step is borrowed from the pro kitchen – as the rice approaches that ‘nearly done’ stage we flood it, covering the top with about a half inch of stock and the remainder of the olive oil. Do not stir. Remove from heat and allow to stand for four to five minutes, then stir and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed.
To finish, add grated cheese and parsley, stir to combine and serve, piping hot to waiting loved ones.
Perfect as a stand alone, risotto is served in Italy as a primo, or first course. Our favorite way to serve mushroom risotto is as a background to a spicy or smokey sausage or a simple sauteed piece of chicken, beef or lamb.
What wine? Depending on what you’re serving with, I might go with a full bodied chardonnay or savingion blanc if I’m serving it as an opener. With red meats, I might lean classic Italian with a solid chianti or a bold valpolicella.
Gypsy Note: Please note that we saved the seasoning, in particular the addition of salt until the end, when using off-the-shelf stocks, be mindful of salt concentration Adding salt too early can make for a very salty risotto, and once it’s in it’s hard to take out, so wait to season just before it hits the plate.
That’s love for ya’. Happy Valentine’s Day.