What the heck is risotto and how does it do that thing it does? Hey, I though rice was an Asian thing, not Italian? Ok, here’s a quick breakdown for you. Risotto is indeed an Italian rice dish, more specifically a Northern Italian rice dish. Usually round, medium or short grain, the most common types of rice used for making risotto are Aborio, Carnaroli, Maratelli and Vialone Nano. You’ll have the most luck finding Aborio in American grocery store, but the latter three are truly the best when it comes to a killer risotto.
The basic concept behind risotto is that you are slow cooking a high starch rice using a large amount of liquids. That is risotto in its most basic form. By constantly stirring and slowing adding liquids as the rice absorbs, it breaks down the starches and and the broth becomes a creamy consistency. Risotto is traditionally cooked with butter, onions and wine.
But this is where things get fun. With such a simple base, you can literally put everything but the kitchen sink in a batch of risotto. And it will still turn out amazing, and comforting, and tasty. For this particular batch of risotto, I opted for wild mushrooms – as may fresh varieties as I could get me hands on in the dead of winter. I had hoped for fresh Maitake mushrooms, but luck was not on my side this week. I settled for a healthy clump of Oyster mushrooms, Criminis, Shitake mushrooms, and a fistful of my secret stash of backyard Chanterelles, harvested and dried last fall.
I replaced the traditional onion with a more flavorful combination of shallot and garlic, and reconstistuted the dehydrated Chanterelle mushrooms with my variation of the mirepoix as it became translucent.
I am not going to kid you – this is a dish that requires much doting and attention. You have to baby it, stirring often throughout the entire process to ensure it turns out correctly. It’s well worth the time investment, just make sure you have the time to give before deciding to make risotto.
- 1-1/2 c aborio rice
- 5 c chicken stock
- unsalted butter
- 2 shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- handful dried chanterelle mushroom
- 1 clump fresh oyster mushroom
- 2 c fresh shitake mushroom
- 12 c sliced crimini mushroom
- 1 c. fresh peas
- 1/2 to 1 c fresh grated asiago cheese
- dash white wine vinegar to taste
- salt/pepper to taste
- Saute minced shallots and garlic in butter
- Add chanterelles and saute until mushrooms rehydrate
- Add the rest of the mushrooms, saute over low heat
- Remove mushroom mixture from heat, set aside
- Increase temperature to medium heat
- Melt butter in skillet, add rice and coat evenly
- Slowly add chicken stock, stirring constantly
- When rice has started to absorb all of the liquid and is slightly al dente to the teeth, add peas
- Season with salt, pepper, vinegar and add asiago cheese
- Stir until cheese melts
- Serve warm
- Peas are optional, but add a nice burst of color.
- Use fresh ingredients whenever possible