I had picked up a bag of fresh maiitake and shiitake mushrooms over the weekend and wanted to make something aside from omelets or soup. When I first set out to make this dish however, I truly had no idea what I was doing — I’ve never cooked risotto before, and according to one of my good friends, risotto is one of the ingredients that has sent Top Chef contestants home time and again (there’s said to be a “risotto curse” of sorts). But as much as I love cooking a quick and easy meal, I also equally enjoy tackling a challenge of a new ingredient, and to much of my surprise this recipe fulfilled both. Envisioning the process before I started cooking, along with a few spoonfuls of taste tests helped tremendously, and at the end of it all, tackling the initial fear of making a new ingredient is more rewarding when you get it right the first time.
Wild Mushroom Risotto
adapted from Daniel Galmiche’s French Brasserie; serves 4
5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, and/or 1/4 ounce dried mushrooms
4 tablespoon butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
5 tablespoon dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
1 1/2 cup risotto rice
1/2 tablespoon crème fraîche
1 1/2 tablespoon chives
Parmesan cheese, to serve
I used a combination of dried and fresh mushrooms but you can use one or the other. With fresh mushrooms, gently wash, and then trim. If you’re using dried mushrooms, fully submerge and soak them in warm water for at least 45 minutes, rinse and pat dry with paper towel. Cut larger mushrooms lengthwise.
In a medium saucier or heavy-bottom saucepan, melt 1 tablespoons of butter on medium. Add half of the shallots and all the mushrooms. Lower heat by a bit and saute for 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Add a two tablespoons of the wine and let it evaporate a little — should hear it sizzle. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from saucepan and set aside.
Now to make the risotto, bring stock to boil in a separate saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and keep it at a simmer. Gently clean the same heavy-bottom saucepan that mushrooms were cooked in, by wiping it of any extra residue. Then, melt the other 3 tablespoons of butter in the saucepan on medium heat. Cook shallots for 2 to 3 minutes until soft. Add rice and stir. Add remaining wine and let it evaporate. Once wine has evaporated, add one ladleful of the stock and stir continuously until it is absorbed. Repeat this process slowly by adding one ladleful of stock to the rice until the rice is cook — tailor the risotto to your liking: if you like it soft and fluffy, add more broth, but don’t make it mushy — about 15-20 minutes. The grains should be plump but still firm but not too wet. At the last minute, add the crème fraîche and finish by folding in the mushrooms and chives and season with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately with parmesan cheese.