Risotto from Start to Finish

Wild mushroom and smoked bacon risotto

Mushroom stock ingredients

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
2 T. olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, diced
4 to 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
1 leek, sliced (green and white parts)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
parsley stalks
sage leaves
2 bay leaves
a generous pinch of salt
6 cups water

Risotto ingredients

1/2 cup smoked bacon, diced (1)
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 cup wild mushrooms, sliced (2)
1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup warm water
1 cup Arborio rice
5 cups mushroom stock (3)
1 cup white wine (4)
2 T. unsalted butter
pinch of salt
cracked black pepper, to taste
chopped parsley
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

For the mushroom stock:

Shake the dried mushrooms in a sieve to loosen any dirt. Heat oil in a soup pot, add the onion, carrots and celery and saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the onion is well-browned, about 15 minutes.

Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any juices or browned bits, then add the dried mushrooms and soaking liquid, the remaining ingredients and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for 45 minutes to one hour. Strain and set aside. Can be made one day in advance.

For the risotto:

Have the stock on a low simmer prior to beginning the risotto. Strain the reconstituted porcini; add the mushroom soaking liquid to the stock.

Saute onion and bacon in a large sauce pot, along with a little olive oil. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until onion is translucent and bacon is partially browned.

Add the rice and mushrooms to the bacon mixture. Stir around for a minute or so to coat the grains with the bacon drippings. (Never rinse the rice or you’ll lose the starch that’s essential to the dish.) Pour in the wine and simmer until the liquid has been absorbed, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the porcini and stir to incorporate.

Add the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly until each addition has been absorbed before adding the next. When the rice tastes done, add the butter and a handful of chopped parsley. The risotto should have the consistency of thick oatmeal. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately, passing grated cheese and parsley at the table. This recipe makes roughly four to five servings.

Notes:

1. I used smoked bacon ends from Flying Pigs Farm in upstate New York, but you can substitute regular bacon, smoked pork sausage, kielbasa or even ham. Remember to adjust any salt that you add towards the end.

2. I used oyster mushrooms, crimini and regular white mushrooms from the supermarket. Feel free to substitute anything from shiitakes to portobello or morels.

3. If you don’t feel like making mushroom stock, you can substitute chicken stock but the flavor profile will be different.

4. Any regular white wine will do from a purchase at Trader Joe’s to a $15 bottle at your local wine shop. For tonight’s dinner I used some leftover pinot gris that I had picked up last week. A rule I usually follow (and this is especially true of stuff like risotto) is “if you wouldn’t drink it, then don’t cook with it”. Why? Because the end product will be greatly affected by what you put in.

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