Risotto con Funghi
(Risotto with Fresh and Dry Wild Mushrooms)
From Allan Shewchuk
Mushrooms are a vital part of Northern Italian cuisine. The hills of the north, with their majestic chestnut trees, are perfect for growing the elusive porcini. The dried mushrooms give this dish a robust flavour. To make this vegetarian, substitute vegetable stock for meat stock, and make sure you use the juices from the reconstituted porcini – that is the key to this dish. I like my risotto a little drier than some, but still al dente. The farther north you go in Italy, the soupier the risotto tends to be. In Venice, they like it sul’onda (on a wave), but the more you head south, Italians prefer it more on the “solid” side.
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
l lb. fresh flavourful mushrooms (portobello, oyster, crimini), chopped
6 c. light meat stock (preferably chicken)
3 T. unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1-3/4 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
6 T. grated parmesan cheese
2 T. Italian parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper
In a small bowl, soak the dried mushrooms in boiling water, covered, for about 30 minutes. Drain the mushrooms and reserve the fluid. Chop the porcini and the fresh mushrooms into a small dice. Set aside. Note: For more depth, you can toss the fresh mushrooms in a little olive oil, put them in a preheated 350°F oven and roast them until brown. A sprinkle of white balsamic also adds flavour while roasting. Or you can put them into a non-stick pan at high heat with no oil and toss them until they start to lose liquid and then set them aside. Just add them to the reconstituted porcinis when you add them to the risotto.
Pour the stock into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to maintain a low boil.
In a heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan, add the butter and put on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent. Add the rice to the pot and stir vigorously to coat the grains with the hot butter. Add the wine and continue stirring until it disappears into the rice. Add the hot mushroom water and stir vigorously until it also blends into the rice.
Now, add 1 or 2 ladles of the stock, just to cover the rice, and continue stirring gently. As the liquid is absorbed, add a little more stock, a bit at a time. Continue until the stock is nearly gone, about 15 minutes. Then test the rice for doneness. When the rice is close to done, add the mushrooms. They will cook quickly and release a lot of fluid. After 3 to 5 minutes, the risotto should flow but not be runny. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the parmesan cheese and parsley and mix well. The risotto will thicken quickly now. Allow the risotto to rest for 2 minutes, then serve it immediately and sprinkle with a bit more cheese and parsley. If you have leftovers, save the rice and use it to make little risotto cakes or arancini for frying.