Tuesday, January 8, 2008

January 8: Mushroom Risotto

I struggle with rice a little bit. First of all, I never liked it much until I was in high school. It looked like -- and I apologize in advance for this image -- maggots to me. My mother never made a lot of rice, and when she did, it was Rice a Roni. Hello salt.

I've become a convert, although I still struggle a little bit. I have very little self control, and not lifting the lid to poke at the rice while it's cooking is like torture for me. Torture. And I tend to get distracted and forget about it at some crucial point in the cooking, which means that it burns or gets stuck to the inside of my enameled cast-iron Dutch oven. Why no one has ever tried using overcooked rice as some kind of industrial glue, I will never understand. And I don't make enough rice, for mostly the two reasons mentioned above, to warrant the use of a rice cooker. I am a little persnicketty (you can't imagine how much I've wanted to use the word persnicketty) about kitchen things that only do one thing. An avacado slicer? Already got one. It's called a knife. It doubles as an apple slicer, a chicken slicer, and a slicer of...well, pretty much everything.

The answer, of course, is risotto. Risotto has to be stirred pretty much constantly, and you eliminate the burning/sticking problem and also my lifting-the-lid problem. Risotto is also almost endlessly flexible. I've made a spinach-feta risotto for my mother's birthday dinner, a risotto with pancetta and peas, and even a cheddar-cheese-and-ham risotto with cauliflower for my son, who is 2 1/2, who liked it so much more than I thought he would, as did I--it was a little gooey, a little rich, and I didn't feel guilty, like I would have feeding him Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

This is a fairly basic recipe, yet again from Cook's Illustrated. It's a great fall dish with some kind of braised meaty thing, like short ribs. Risotto is traditional with osso buco, although this may not be the thing to go with it--a lot of competing flavors on one plate. I couldn't find the article when I was looking last night, but I have a memory of Fine Cooking doing an article on risotto and breaking it down into different mix-and-match categories to choose from: aromatics, proteins, vegetables, cheese, herbs, and liquids. I like a nice simple risotto with just onion and garlic, a little parmesan, and some fresh chopped parsley. Risotto can stand alone, or it can be the star of a plate. This one is particularly flexible. Serves 6-8.

Mushroom Risotto

2 bay leaves
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms , rinsed in mesh strainer under running water
3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 pounds cremini mushrooms , wiped clean with a paper towel, stems discarded, and caps cut into fourths if small or sixths if medium or large
2 medium onions, chopped fine (2 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press or minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 pound Arborio rice (2 1/8 cups)
1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Ground black pepper

Tie together bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and parsley sprigs with kitchen twine. Bring bundled herbs, porcini mushrooms, chicken broth, soy sauce, and 3 1/2 cups water to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat; reduce to medium-low and simmer until dried mushrooms are softened and fully hydrated, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard herb bundle and strain broth through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl (you should have about 6 1/2 cups strained liquid); return liquid to saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Finely mince porcini and set aside.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add cremini mushrooms, 1 cup onions, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture released by mushrooms evaporates and mushrooms are well browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute, then transfer mushrooms to oven-safe bowl and keep warm in oven. Off heat, add 1/4 cup water to now-empty skillet and scrape with wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits; pour liquid from skillet into saucepan with broth.

Heat 3 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add remaining 1 cup onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and translucent, about 9 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains’ edges are transparent, about 4 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until rice absorbs wine. Add minced porcini and 3 1/2 cups broth and cook, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, until liquid is absorbed, 9 to 11 minutes. Stir in additional 1/2 cup broth every 2 to 3 minutes until rice is cooked through but grains are still somewhat firm at center, 10 to 12 minutes (rice may not require all of broth). Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, then stir in mushrooms (and any accumulated juices), Parmesan, and chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; serve immediately in warmed bowls.

1 comment:

merseydotes said...

I love risottos. I have a whole folder in my recipe book for risottos. Basil? Not so much. However, he very much loves tomato and sausage risotto from Everyday Food. It has spinach, too, so it's a complete meal!