As promised, Mushroom Risotto! I don’t use a recipe for risotto… well, not really. For every risotto I make there are five central ingredients: arborio rice, white wine, chicken stock, good quality parmesan, and butter. The rest depends on what’s good. Asparagus in season is great, so are chopped ham and fresh garden peas. But today, a tray of mixed mushrooms are getting the risotto treatment.
First of all, there’s half a rib of celery and a quarter of an onion all chopped up. I’ve really been getting into celery as a base flavour lately – I use it anywhere I use onion, which is basically in everything. I even like it braised in stock as a side dish, though I realise that might be a little extreme for some people. Still, even if you think you don’t like celery, give it a try in your bolognese, casseroles, and what have you. It adds a really nice flavour. Just make sure to chop it up fine.
Right. Celery and onion are chopped. Let’s get ‘em in the pan. See those other pans on the stove? The smaller one (please forgive its appearance, it’s old but functional!) is some chicken stock on the simmer – I made it a few days ago from the bones of a roast chicken. I just throw ‘em in the slow cooker with half an onion and a rib of my friend celery, plus some garlic and peppercorns. I leave it for the day on medium, and I’m all set. I have a big slow cooker, so it makes a ton. I used less than half for this risotto and froze the rest. The bigger pan is waiting for the rest of the mushrooms. A few of the less-exotic mushrooms are going to go straight in the pan with the celery and onions here in a second, but the rest will just be sauteed over really high heat with butter and a little salt – this way the distinct flavour and texture of each mushroom can really shine.
Aren’t they pretty? I like the curly edges on the criminis.
So let’s get on with this risotto business. The onions and celery are soft and transparent, the chopped criminis are soft and buttery. Time for the main ingredient! In goes the rice, along with a finely chopped clove of garlic. Stir it all around just until the rice barely starts to go a little brown and toasty. It looks thirsty doesn’t it? Let’s give it a glass of wine.
This is where the fun starts. Keep the heat pretty low, and stir the rice until it drinks up almost all the wine. Add a ladle of the simmering chicken stock. Stir until THAT’S almost gone – and repeat, repeat, repeat with the stock. If you start with a cup of rice, you’ll end up using about 4 cups of stock – but the exact amount depends on how fresh the rice is, how fast or how slow you cook it, the weather, the NASDAQ, etc. You’ll need to taste it to know when it’s done – the rice will be creamy, without any trace of hardness in the middle. Now you can turn the heat off for a minute while you cook up the rest of your mushrooms in plenty of butter over high heat – you want them nice and brown, even a little bit crispy on the edges. Make sure you stir them and toss them around while they cook so they don’t burn.
Now that you’ve got mushrooms nice and toasty, it’s time to finish the risotto. Put it back on the heat and add one final ladle of stock so it’s creamy and oozy. Risotto should spread out on the plate, not stand up in a stiff mound. That’s why you need to have a sense of urgency here at the end- you need to serve it hot hot hot on hot plates, or it will stiffen up. The last step is to stir in a little more butter – half a tablespoon-ish – and a handful of grated parmesan. Give it a good stir, ladle it onto the plate, and throw the sauteed mushrooms on top. I recommend serving it with a piece of toasty crusty bread, rubbed with a clove of garlic. Like so.