Over the years, whenever I would attempt a new dish or dessert, Mr TruffleBird would often ask me if it was difficult. At my level of cooking, things are rarely difficult per se, at least not in terms of technique as I'm not exactly taking part in advanced French cooking, but they can often be time consuming. (So now he knows to ask if a dish was time consuming – quite trainable is that Mr. TruffleBird). Making Danish pastry was probably one of my more difficult undertakings as rolling out pastry dough can be quite tricky and does require some skill in order to attain a flaky final product.
Risotto is a dish that I for years thought fell into not only the time consuming, but also the difficult category. I pictured Italian mamas slaving over a hot stove for hours ladling spoonful after spoonful of hot broth into the pan, waiting for the rice to reach that creamy perfection. Thus, great was my surprise when I watched my friend Judy prepare a delicious mushroom risotto one night, and it dawned on me that there wasn’t really much skill required here, just an enormous amount of patience as risotto cannot be rushed. (This is by no means to take away from Judy’s cooking skills as she is a wonderful cook.)
Now, people who know me well know that while I have many wonderful virtues, patience is definitely not one of them, but nevertheless I decided that I would attempt this amazing mushroom risotto on my own. Judy was kind enough to share her recipe with me – how it came to her I don't know, so unfortunately I can’t give credit to the original creator.
The recipe follows below, but let me start by saying that I used it more as a guideline than an actual recipe. When I cook, I eyeball things a lot (contrary to when I bake) – I mean, who seriously has the patience to measure out 2 tbsp of fresh parsley or thyme? I just chop and add as I see fit. Dried porcini mushroom, while wonderful I’m sure, also sounded way too fussy for me, so instead I used about 1 ½ pounds of fresh mushrooms, and the beauty is that you can use whatever you can find at the market. This time I used crimini (also known as baby bellas, they are in fact baby Portobello mushrooms), oyster and shitake mushrooms, but use whatever you like. Since I was only cooking for two, I used about 1 cup rice and 4 cups chicken stock, but again – you can kinda eyeball it. Finally, I found a good pecorino Romano at the store and decided to use that instead of Parmesan. Again, feel free to substitute as you like.
First up, cooking the mushroom in a skillet with butter and thyme:
When they are done, add final parsley:
Saute onions and garlic, add the rice and wine, and then start adding the broth slowly. Every spoonful of broth should be incorporated before you add the next. I won't lie; this is when I start to get bored.
But after 15-20 minutes of stirring constantly, the risotto is done. Add the cheese and a handful of fresh parsley, and you're ready to eat!
The flavors are absolutely wonderful - the soft soft, creamy rice, the earthy flavor of the mushroom, the fresh thyme, the saltiness of the melted cheese...creamy, rich goodness. Mama couldn't make a better risotto, I swear :-)
Judy's Mushroom Risotto
8 cups chicken broth, low sodium
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, diced, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced, divided
1 pound fresh portobello and crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon truffle oil
1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms, wiped of grit
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh Italian parsley, for garnish
Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 onion and 1 clove garlic, cook, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, herbs and butter. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle in truffle oil then add the dried porcini mushrooms which were reconstituted in1 cup of warm chicken broth. Season again with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Sauté 1 minute then remove from heat and set aside.
Coat a saucepan with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Sauté the remaining 1/2 onion and garlic clove. Add the rice and stir quickly until it is well-coated and opaque, 1 minute. This step cooks the starchy coating and prevents the grains from sticking. Stir in wine and cook until it is nearly all evaporated.
Now, with a ladle, add 1 cup of the warm broth and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time. Continue to cook and stir, allowing the rice to absorb each addition of broth before adding more. The risotto should be slightly firm and creamy, not mushy. Transfer the mushrooms to the rice mixture. Stir in Parmesan cheese, cook briefly until melted. Top with a drizzle of truffle oil and chopped parsley before serving.
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