Risotto Verde Asiatico Con Carne di Maiale & Funghi
Asian Green Risotto with Pork and Assorted Mushrooms
I am sure it happens to the best of us... we go out grocery shopping, see something unusual, bring it home feeling sure we will find use for it sometime... and then... don't. That is exactly what happened with me and the dried mushrooms I picked up from my local Asian supermarket last year. To be honest, I wasn't even sure what KIND of mushrooms the white ones were! They looked like slices of Styrofoam to be honest, but were inexpensive and unusual enough for me to not be able to resist. The black ones were those funky "cloud ear" mushrooms that we are familiar with from the typical Chinese hot and sour soups or spring rolls. Well a whole year later, I was driven today, by a need to finally bring those mummified mushrooms back to life- and the result was quite a revelation!
I dropped a handful of each sort of the dried mushrooms into a bowl of warm water to re hydrate them and let them soak for 30 minutes. My first revelation, was that upon closer inspection of the packaging... I discovered that the white Styrofoam slices, were indeed king oyster mushrooms- which of course delighted me! These delicious mushrooms are not always available fresh and as far as I am aware are very difficult to find in the USA... so there is an idea for my American friends who have been looking out for them! Forget fresh and get down to the Asian store instead!
The next thing I did, was to marinate the pork, which I had cut into strips, in a mixture of soy sauce, oyster sauce, honey, 5-spice powder and a half glass of Sambuca... what a combination! The great aniseed flavor of the Sambuca goes so well with the Asian spices and honey and also makes the meat more tender. I let this sit and marinate for 20 minutes and got the risotto going... it is all about timing as we all know- and I had it planned pretty well this evening... even if I do say so myself!
For the risotto, I had a little prep-work to do... I prepared some vegetable stock which I brought up to the boil, and also a "pesto" of sorts, made from a number of fresh herbs. I used coriander, basil, parsley, chives, lemon grass and a few slices of galangal. I put these into my blender, with a shallot, a clove of garlic and half cup of coconut milk, a good squeeze of lime juice and a tablespoon of sesame oil. I whizzed these together along with a teaspoonful of Thai green curry paste, into a fine and creamy, bright green juice and set it to one side. I started the risotto in the classical manner- rice into the pan in butter, onion and finely chopped celery to follow and then de glazed with white wine. Continue cooking as accustomed and after 10 minutes or so, add the green beans. Keep stirring and adding broth as required. After 5 minutes of cooking with the beans, add the green juice and keep stirring.
The rice will turn a wonderful green color before your very eyes!
Now is the time to start putting this all together- so put down the Sambuca you have been sipping on and get back to it! First things first- check the seasoning of your rice and add salt if necessary, along with a drizzle of sesame oil and turn off the heat. We added the green juice at the end, as the heat makes it fade very quickly and we would lose the color if we added it too early... just so that you know!
Heat up your pan, add a teaspoon of peanut oil and the mushrooms first. By now, the king oyster mushrooms will have swollen up to twice their size and be miraculously golden and juicy looking! Give them a good wring-out before frying them though... or they will just end up stewing in all of that liquid. Stir-fry rapidly from all sides and set to one side. Now add the mushrooms and do the same- make sure that they soak up all of the good flavor that the pork left behind in the pan! Now add a couple of coarsely chopped spring onions, return the pork to the pan and bring everything up to temperature. Add the marinade into the mix to give everything a nice glaze and you are ready to serve!
By now, the risotto should be fluffy and perfect and the last finishing-touch is a drizzle of honey over the meat and mushrooms and a sprinkle of sesame seed... and there you have it- Italian/Asian fusion! Wok on!