Thursday, February 4, 2010

The risotto that almost wasn't...

Recently my beloved teenager requested mushroom risotto for dinner. Feeling confident that I could throw that together in no time and that I had most of the ingredients already on hand, I grabbed a couple packs of mushrooms from the supermarket and headed home to peruse risotto recipes on the internet. Because no matter how well I already know how to make something, no cooking endeavor is complete until I have researched it to death. And then, more likely than not, proceeded to do it my way.

Mushroom risotto, while a little bit fussy, is easy to make. As long as you get everything that's going to go into your risotto prepared beforehand, you will be free to sip wine and listen to music while you idly stir your creation. You may even have time to switch the laundry, wash dishes and catch up on your twitter feed...although such extreme multitasking is not for the weak.

This risotto almost did not come to be our dinner because I realized as I was setting out to make it that I did not have dry white wine on hand. I was even out of trusty old vermouth (an excellent thing to keep in the fridge for just such an occasion) Reliant as I am on the internet, I asked my social media networking sites what to do. I did have a bottle of dry champagne on hand...and thus, a recipe was born- Mushroom Champagne Risotto!

Let's make it together, shall we?...

We'll need mushrooms, one container should do; and please do not be one of those silly people who cling blindly to the belief that mushrooms should not be washed. They should. They will be all right. Although, if you truly believe your fungus tastes better dirty, who am I to stop you from getting E-coli? Ahem.

Remove stems, slice and set aside.

We will also need onions, 2 small or one large. Finely diced.

And stock, 5 or 6 cups. I use chicken stock and in that I rehydrate some dried porcini mushrooms. You need to get it hot and then keep it at a simmer because you'll want it to be hot as you add it to the risotto.

In a saucepan, melt a bit of butter in some olive oil. About 1 TBS each. Add in half your onions and saute until translucent. Then add your mushrooms. Saute until golden brown and season with salt and pepper. When your mushrooms are at the lovely golden shade you prefer, remove them from the heat and set them aside for later.

Now to a fresh saute pan add a tiny bit of olive oil and saute the rest of your onions. You're not looking for these to caramelize, you just want them to turn translucent. When they are ready, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter and add two cups of aborio rice. You can find it in either the rice section or the Italian section of most supermarkets. Saute your rice for a couple of minutes until all of the grains are coated with butter.

And now we add one cup of dry white wine. I can say that dry champagne works beautifully, but white wine is traditional. Stir it into the rice until it's completely absorbed.

Now it's time to add the stock. One cup at a time. You can either strain out the mushrooms and chop them or you can do like I did and hack at them with kitchen shears right in the risotto pot as you add your stock.

And stir! Just kidding with the exclamation point there, it's nothing to be fanatical about. Basically you want to stir the stock into the rice because this releases the starch in the rice and is what gives the risotto it's creamy consistency. But don't get crazy about it. You can sip your wine (or champagne), change Pandora and then get right back to stirring.

You've stirred enough when the liquid is absorbed and the risotto starts to leave a starchy looking trail, like so

At that point, go ahead and add your next cup of stock. Keep repeating the same steps until all the stock has been used. Make sure you are tasting along the way. The point is not for a mushy rice dish. Proper risotto should be like correctly made pasta, slightly toothsome but not hard. You may find you don't need all the stock. I did use the full 5 cups.

Once the risotto has absorbed all the stock and is the right consistency, sprinkle on about a half cup finely grated Parmesan.

And stir.

And then add your reserved mushroom mixture.

And stir.

And taste. Mmmm, isn't that good? And not nearly as difficult as you thought. And so wonderfully variable. It's time to eat. We served our risotto with a simply dressed spinach salad with goat cheese and chopped pecans. And champagne...cold, bubbly champagne. So lovely.


  1. excellent. breaking out the bubbly for a bit of risotto? sounds like an improvement to me. :)

  2. Champagne and champignon.

    I suppose two French words that are so similar would naturally work well together. Glad the experiment worked out. Mrs. Fussy thought it would be fine, even though I had my doubts.

  3. Oh, you add the wine to the risotto???? I usually drink mine, and then everything seems to come out right. . . I'll try your way, next time. 8-)

  4. Oh man, bubbles just might get me to eat risotto...

  5. You made it look so easy. And beautiful. There are people in my house who are rather fussy about mushrooms. This could change their ways.

  6. @Grace mid-week champagne is awesome, I may have to make it a regular occurrence!

    @Daniel B. Champagne and champignon would have made a great title for this post- wish I had thought of it.

    @SharleneT I love cooking with alcohol it always seems right to have some for the pot and some for the cook :)

    @AlbanyJane you don't like risotto? I love it but I am a creamy kind of gal. (never mind how weird that sounds)

    @CarolineBarrett it is easy! Risotto only seems fussy, advanced prep is key.

  7. Super blog title! And I imagine the champagne made your risotto even better.
    (I doubt I'd ever have leftover champagne!)