Since my mother brought back some beautiful dried porcini from Italy a couple of weeks ago, I’m using them in risotto tonight. These porcini are so plump, meaty and supple, they’re almost as delicate as fresh ones, although they have a deeper, woodsier flavor. They need to be soaked in hot (from the tap–not boiling) water for about 20 minutes prior to using.
Once the ingredients are prepped (shallots chopped, mushrooms soaked and roughly chopped), the dish goes very quickly. It’s not necessary to stir the risotto constantly, although you shouldn’t venture too far away from the pot once you’ve started it. The reason is that you must keep the mixture moist–don’t let it start sticking to the bottom of the pot–but not so moist that the rice is awash in liquid. You want to keep adding just enough liquid for the rice to perk away with not much excess liquid at any given moment.
The heat should be a lively medium-high and the pot should be a heavy-bottomed saucepan with curved sides. Keep plenty of good broth simmering on a neighboring burner and simply add a cup at a time to the rice for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and cover for 5 minutes. After you uncover, add more butter and more broth if the mixture has tightened up too much (the rice will continue to absorb liquid as it sits).
The consistency of the finished dish should be moist but not too soupy. The rice itself should still have a bit of bite to it (al-dente). Serve with plenty of grated parmigiano on top.
Our second course tonight (and an ideal one for this risotto) is roast chickens on the grill.
2 cups arborio rice
9 – 10 cups homemade chicken broth
1 oz. dried porcini
2 medium shallots, diced finely
8 tbls unsalted butter
1 cup grated parmigiano
salt and pepper to taste
Soak porcini in hot water (just enough to cover mushrooms entirely) for about 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms, squeeze lightly and chop roughly. Add a cup of the porcini soaking liquid to the broth–slowly pour off the soaking liquid from the top of the bowl while leaving the soil undisturbed on the bottom. Discard remainder of the liquid and soil.
In a saucepan, place shallots and 6 tbls butter on medium heat and saute shallots for about a minute.
Add rice to the shallots and butter. Set your kitchen timer to 15 minutes. Saute rice and shallots for another 3 – 4 minutes, until rice begins to crackle and turn pearly and translucent.
Add wine, which will sizzle and evaporate very quickly. Stir to reduce wine, then add the mushrooms. Begin adding broth, 1 cup at a time, while stirring often.
As the prior addition of broth is incorporated into the rice, add more broth. Keep the mixture slightly liquidy at all times.
At 15 minutes, turn off heat and cover pot for 5 minutes. After uncovering, add a ladle of broth and the remaining butter. Stir in 1/2 cup parmigiano and serve in heated bowls immediately. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese at the table.