Mushroom Risotto

Snowed in on this beautiful winter day?  Earlier this morning I deliberated about what I could make that’s comforting enough to ward away the unrelenting cold outside. The snow flurries falling from the sky made me think of pearly white grains of Arborio rice. Nature always finds a way to inspire.

It’s true – risotto is a labor of love!  But that shouldn’t stop us. The slow and deliberate process of gently blossoming the rice with the stock to coax the starch gives risotto its signature creaminess. All you need is 30-35 minutes. Have patience and you’ll be delighted by the results.

Risotto must be eaten immediately after cooking or else it becomes too dry. It’s one of those dishes I caution against ordering out at a restaurant because typically it isn’t made fresh (usually in advance). With a good timing and a little patience, you’ll be able to whip up a batch of your own risotto that’s more than restaurant-worthy.

Ingredients

12 ounces any assorted mushrooms, chopped (white, porcini, portabello)
8 cups chicken stock (homemade preferred)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
2/3 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
2 tsp truffle salt* (or kosher salt)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp freshly chopped Italian parsley for garnish

*I found this truffle salt at Whole Foods. I also love using it to season steak, omelettes, vegetables, and roasted chicken.

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Risotto is such a comforting and versatile complement to any meal. In the spring I love to make it with asparagus, lemon and a pinch of saffron. The combinations are endless. (Organization is important – prep everything ahead of time).

Instructions

In a large saucepan, heat mushrooms on medium-heat for 3 minutes.

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Cook the mushrooms until they start to turn slightly brown. This will release their flavor and evaporate any excess moisture. Set the mushrooms aside in a separate bowl.

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Add the chicken stock to the pan. Bring it to a simmer while stirring to release the mushroom flavor into the stock.

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In a large, heavy saucepan over medium-heat, melt the butter and the olive oil. Add the shallots and cook until they are tender and translucent, about 3 minutes.

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Stir in the rice and coat it evenly with the butter and oil. Continue to stir the rice for about 2 minutes in order to gently toast it. This releases the natural starch.

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The starch is what makes risotto so creamy.  Add the wine and simmer until all the liquid has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes.

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Here’s where the fun begins. Continuing to maintain the rice over medium-heat, add 1/2 cup of warm stock and stir it until it’s almost completely absorbed.

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Once it’s absorbed, add another 1/2 cup of stock to the rice. Keep repeating this process with remaining stock, adding 1/2 cup at a time, and allowing each addition to be absorbed.

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The rice will eventually become tender and creamy.

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This process of adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time takes about 30-35 minutes.  Risotto should be al dente, like pasta, meaning each grain offers a subtle resistance to the bite. When the rice becomes creamy but still al dente (to your liking), add the peas.

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Add the remaining mushrooms.

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Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the Parmesan, parsley, truffle salt and pepper.

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Serve immediately and top with fresh cracked pepper, parsley, and extra grated Parmesan, if desired.

Yield: 6 cups

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