Wild Mushroom Risotto

I could call this Friendship Risotto.  A lot of my friends unwittingly contributed to my dinner tonight.  First, there’s the friend who introduced me to risotto nearly 15 years ago now.  Then there’s the friend who brought me the most wonderful bottle of Port as a souvenir of his trip to Portugal.  Also, a local friend who hooked me up with a friend of hers who I know only as “The Spice Runner.”  The Spice Runner contributed an amazing mix of dried wild mushrooms.  Finally, there’s the friend who earlier this evening started a conversation about mushroom risotto.  He’s the reason I made risotto tonight at all instead of having leftover soup.  So, thanks to you all!

If you’ve been reading long you know that I make risotto pretty often.  It’s incredibly versatile, relatively easy and a little zen.  Something about standing by the pot adding a little liquid at a time and stirring slowly, but constantly, for 45 or more minutes is very relaxing for me.  I know there are a lot of recipes out there for risotto that you don’t have to stir like that, but I just don’t make risotto if I don’t have time to make it.  If I looked back through the postings I bet I’d find that most of the time I make risotto it’s on a Sunday night.  Maybe it’s my way of easing back into the work week.

Arborio rice and onions + reconstituted mushrooms = yummy risotto dinner.

So, this is a new twist on an old favorite.  Most of the time when you make mushroom risotto you use sherry as the first liquid that you stir in to the rice.  Sherry is a sweet wine.  Port is also sweet, but so much more complex than sherry.  I decided to give that a go.  A couple of tips on this risotto.  The port adds such a sweet flavor to the dish that you’ll be tempted to add a lot of salt as a counterpoint.  Don’t.  This may be particularly difficult to avoid if you’re using a store-bought stock.  Get a low sodium version if you can.  Another way to cut the salt is to use 2 C of the commercial beef (or mushroom stock if you’re keeping things vegetarian) and a cup or more of the mushroom “stock” you create when you reconstitute the dried mushrooms.  There’s flavor in that water that you don’t want to miss, but no salt.

The salt balance is going to come from the cheese you add just before serving.  I use a high quality Parmesan.  Get it in a block so you can shave off good sized pieces with a vegetable peeler.  Grate some around the edge of the plate too.  It looks nice and adds the cheese flavor a little more subtly than the shavings.  Please, please, please no cheese out of a shaker can.

One more note about making risotto in general.  I know a lot of folks avoid dishes like this when they have company coming.  The accepted wisdom is that you don’t include on a dinner party menu anything that requires a lot of time in the kitchen after your guests arrive.  Well, maybe your house is different, but at my house, and at most of the homes to which I am invited for dinner, everyone hangs out in the kitchen anyway.  If everyone is going to be in the kitchen anyway there’s no reason you can’t be in there stirring the risotto.  It’s an easy thing to do with a glass of wine in your non-stirring hand.  And it’s completely possible to stir and participate in the conversation.  It’s a great dish to serve your friends.

This is a rich, sweet, earthy, salty dish perfect for a rainy evening like this one.  It would only be better if some of my contributing friends were here to share it with me.

Good? Definitely.
Easy? Relatively.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping? Nope. You can make risotto with anything.

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients

1 C dried mixed wild mushrooms
1 1/2 C water

2 C low sodium beef and/or mushroom stock
2 T olive oil
1-2 C onion, diced
1 C arborio rice
1/2 C Tawny Port

Parmesan cheese

Directions

Combine mushrooms and water in a bowl. Cover. Microwave 40-45 seconds. Let rest while the mushrooms reconstitute.

In a small sauce pan heat the stock and keep it warm.

In a medium stock pot or chef’s pan heat the olive oil. When the oil is hot enough to glisten add the onions. Stir 2-3 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Add the rice. Stir until the rice is coated. Add the Port. Stir constantly until the liquid is almost completely absorbed. Begin adding the stock 1/3-1/2 C at a time, stirring constantly. After each addition stir until the liquid is almost completely absorbed. When you have used up the stock drain the mushroom liquid into the sauce pan and use that until the risotto reaches the desired consistency. When the rice is creamy, but still a little al dente, turn off the heat and stir in the reconstituted mushrooms.

Spoon the risotto into individual dishes and top with Parmesan shavings. Finish the plates with finely grated parmesan.

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One Response to “Wild Mushroom Risotto”

  1. Cindy Says:

    Mmmm. We had risotto this week. Ours was rice, chicken stock, dry white wine and Parmesan. Over the top we had tomato and basil cooked down into a sauce. Soooo delicious. Soooo apt to give you sore arms the next day. =]

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