Making risotto is a bit of a process. It takes about 20 minutes of continuous stirring to release the starch that creates that crucial creamy consistency. The cooking liquid (broth or stock) is gradually added as the rice cooks; simply dumping it in will not result in the right texture. (I unfortunately speak from experience...) Risotto is not something to stress over (it is comfort food, after all) but it requires some patience. The slow stirring of a bubbling pot is really all that is required, and the effort is well rewarded in the end.
Risotto cannot be rushed, but once it is made it needs to be consumed while it retains the perfect slumped-on-the-plate, neither-gluey-nor-soupy texture. (I remember hearing that many Italians refuse to eat leftover risotto as-is, which led to the invention of those delicious fried risotto balls, arancini.) When done right, fresh risotto can be a big bowl of bliss.
Today, I made the classic mushroom variation. Dried porcini mushrooms give the risotto a warm earthiness and "mushroominess", while the fresh wild mushrooms are dressed with a zesty lemon vinaigrette. The contrast of the two preparations is genius, to which I must credit Jamie Oliver. Here, I used portobello and crimini mushrooms, but if you have access to other varieties of mushrooms then I can think of very few better ways to use them.
(On a side note, Whole Foods would be a good place to look; I recall seeing golden chanterelles, speckled lobster and black trumpet mushrooms the last time I checked. It was rather exciting.)
On an unrelated note, a new website has wandered onto my radar: cookstr.com. It boasts an extensive collection of recipes from famous chefs and cookbook authors. The recipes span all skill levels and cuisines, and many are accompanied by the all-important hunger-inducing photos.
Grilled Mushroom Risotto
- 6 1/3 cups chicken stock
- Handful dried porcini mushrooms
- Olive oil
- 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 sticks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 14 ounces risotto rice
- 2/3 cup vermouth or white wine
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large handfuls wild mushrooms (try chanterelles, shiitake, black trumpet or oyster - definitely no button mushrooms, please!), cleaned and sliced
- Few sprigs fresh chervil, tarragon or parsley, leaves picked and chopped
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 handfuls freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Heat stock in a saucepan and keep it on a low simmer.
Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour in just enough hot stock to cover. Leave for a couple of minutes until they've softened. Fish them out of the stock and chop them, reserving the soaking liquid.
In a large pan, heat a glug of olive oil and add the onion and celery. Slowly fry without coloring for at least 10 minutes, then turn the heat up and add the rice. Give it a stir. Stir in the vermouth or wine - it'll smell fantastic! Keep stirring until the liquid has cooked into the rice. Now pour the porcini soaking liquid through a sieve into the pan and add the chopped porcini, a good pinch of salt and your first ladle of hot stock. Turn the heat down to a simmer and keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. This will take about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, get a dry griddle pan hot and grill the wild mushrooms until soft. If your pan isn't big enough, do this in batches. Put them into a bowl and add the chopped herbs, a pinch of salt and the lemon juice. Using your hands toss everything together - this is going to be incredible!
Take the risotto off the heat and check the seasoning carefully. Stir in the butter and the Parmesan. You want it to be creamy and oozy in texture, so add a bit more stock if you think it needs it. Put a lid on and leave the risotto to relax for about 3 minutes.
Taste your risotto and add a little more seasoning or Parmesan if you like. Serve a good dollop of risotto topped with some grilled dressed mushrooms, a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Recipe courtesy of jamieoliver.com
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