The first real cold weather has finally arrived and although I didn’t put on a pair of Long Johns, I did tuck in for a comfy evening by the fireplace, a book and a glass of wine. The glass of wine afforded me the ability to use it for making this warm bowl of mushroom risotto.
Risotto is a northern Italian dish that’s more of a porridge than a pilaf. A risotto should be creamy without having to add any cream, Arborio rice is the usual type of grain used (not long-grain) and there’s some labour involved in making it, i.e. gradual addition of hot stock into the pot along with some constant stirring. Risotto is not made by simply add stock (liquid to a pot and simmering it and neither is it baked (gasp).
Beyond following the basics of risotto (Arborio rice, good stock and constant stirring), the possibilities are endless on the flavour spectrum. One can create a simple white risotto with just stock, aromatics and cheese, one can introduce seasonal ingredients to flavour a risotto or choose a protein (and vegetable) to accent your risotto.
One of my favourite risottos is the mushroom risotto. Slices of Cremini mushrooms (they grow up to become Portobellos), homemade chicken stock, some bay leaf and fresh thyme leaves and the addition of cold butter at the end to heighten that creamy texture that is the risotto. I’ve also added some finely chopped bacon in lieu of the more traditional pancetta.
Open a bottle of wine, gather your ingredients and enjoy the whole process of adding stock/stirring/adding stock until your risotto is ready. It’s a good excuse to open some wine and you’ll be rewarded with a bowl of comfort.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion (or 1/3 cup), finely dice
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 strips of bacon, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup sliced Cremini mushrooms (wiped with a damp cloth)
1 tsp fresh thyme (3-4 sprigs of thyme)
2 bay leaves
1 cup Arborio rice
1 glass dry white wine
3-4 cups hot chicken stock
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat the olive in a deep, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, bacon, mushrooms, thyme, bay leaves and cook for 5-6 minutes or until the mushrooms have browned.
- Add the rice and stir to coat the rice well. Now add the wine and stir over medium heat until the rice has absorbed all the wine.
- Add your chicken stock 1 ladle at a time, repeating this step after each time the rice absorbs the stock. At around 3 cups of stock, taste the rice for done-ness. Your risotto should be “al dente” (or have a little bite).
- Stir in the unsalted butter one Tbsp. at a time. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir in some grated Parmesan cheese and serve with more grated cheese and a sprig of thyme for garnish. Serve with a Boutari Moschfilero.
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