Mushroom Risotto

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February posts on recipe blogs are usually dedicated to all things pink, red, and nauseatingly romantic.  This year, I have one word for you:

Risotto.

Just saying it makes you sound fancy, doesn’t it?  Risotto.  It’s basically just creamy rice, but you don’t impress people with a dish called “creamy rice.”  But risotto…now THAT gets people’s attention.  That’s exactly why it’s a perfect post for the month of Valentine’s Day. Forget heart-shaped cookies with sickeningly sweet, pink frosting.  This mushroom risotto is the ultimate “Date Night Trump Card.”  It uses ingredients they are easy to find and makes a great impression.  This is the dish that you want to present when you want “seeing where things go” to turn into “relationship upgrade.”  When you messed up really bad and are trying to make it up to them.  Or, maybe when you just want them to feel special.  Risotto is Italian for “I will babysit a pot of rice for 30 minutes for you, because you mean that much to me.”  It totally is, I swear.

At its core, risotto is a Northern Italian dish of rice that is cooked by slowly adding broth to achieve a creamy consistency.  It’s funny that this dish, mainly associated with high-end Italian dining here in the U.S., is essentially staple of home-cooked comfort food.  Basically, it’s Northern Italy’s answer to mac and cheese.  Risotto intimidates a lot of home cooks because it sounds complicated, but is actually quite simple to make.  It takes time and patience, so it’s not something that can be made in a rush.  Done right, you are rewarded with a creamy and satisfying dish that makes a great accompaniment to pretty much any protein, or is hearty enough to make a meal on its own.  As a bonus, this risotto is made with mushrooms for extra heartiness.  I don’t even miss having meat in this dish.

The key to any risotto is to add the liquid gradually.  One ladle (about 1/2 cup) of liquid should take around 2 minutes to be absorbed by the rice.  Make sure you adjust your heat accordingly to get the proper pacing of liquid absorption, or your risotto will end up either too dry or too runny.

Mushroom risotto

Mushroom Risotto

(Adapted from this recipe from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

  • 6 cups beef broth or stock (or vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound portobello mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup shallots or onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a saucepan, heat the beef stock on medium to medium-high heat until it barely starts to simmer.  Reduce heat to low.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Remove mushrooms and their liquid, and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same saucepan, and stir in the shallots or onions. Cook for 3 minute, or until onion starts to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, reduce heat and pour in wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish each serving with chopped parsley and more parmesan cheese, if desired.

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