Sunday, 13 October 2013

Rice to the Occasion

Risotto con i Funghi Porcini
Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

Porcini are amongst the most flavorful and delicious of all mushrooms... and not only everybody else's favorites- but mine too! Fortunately, they are plentiful here in Germany and the market hall was full of them yesterday at affordable prices... and as this is the season- they had to be had... and this evening- they had to be cooked! 

I guess the dish of risotto with porcini is one of the classics too and of course there are many versions out there and I wouldn't doubt for a second that most of them are delicious. Making risotto is not a difficult affair- it is mostly just a matter of having patience and good judgement to know when the time is right, the consistency perfect and the seasoning in balance. It is a matter of trial and error. Fortunately, it is so delicious that trying it over and over again is fun whilst you learn- I could eat risotto every second day in the cold Winter months!

I started this simple dish off by splitting the mushrooms into 3 groups. I wanted to have a few nice slices to fry nice and crispy and serve on top at the end, so I cut these first. With a couple of the mushrooms, the stalks snapped off whilst I was attempting to slice them- that is fine- those go to make up the next group, which I chopped into a fine dice- the stalks are good for doing that with. And the remaining third I cut into larger, irregular pieces. And this is how I made use of them...

The finely chopped mushrooms went into my saucepan along with a half of an onion, finely chopped, a little crushed garlic and a pat of butter. I sizzled them away until the onion became translucent and then added the rice- 2 handfuls of Vialone Nano in this case, but Arborio or Canaroli are also excellent rices to use for risotto making. I used 10-12 average sized mushrooms to make 2 servings- more than enough.

Once the rice had been stirred in, had become coated in a little butter and the juices from the mushrooms and onion, I deglazed the pan with a nice glug of white wine. I let it sizzle down a little and then began to add the vegetable broth, one ladle at a time and stirring it in... you know how! I don't want to bore you!

Whilst that was happening, I took the other pieces of mushroom and sautéed them, also in just a small pat of butter- less is more with porcini, as a high heat and a relatively dry pan will get them nice and toasty and not all soft and soupy. I seasoned them with salt and pepper, gave them a nice sprinkle of chopped parsley and then popped them into the saucepan, into the risotto. The little bit of browning gives a nice nuance of flavor and the mushrooms soon impart this into the rice. And the whole time... I kept on stirring, stirring, stirring...

Next came the sliced mushrooms- same procedure- just a hint of butter and a high heat, a tad of salt and 4-5 minutes in the pan... simple. The thing to do is to then leave them in the hot pan and let the residual heat continue cooking them. And whilst that was happening- I got busy finishing of my risotto.

When the rice was cooked but not yet creamy, I checked it for seasoning- until now I had only added pepper as the broth of course was seasoned and one of the next things to be added was to be Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, which is also rather salty. So the salt went in next, along with a little splash of milk and a pat of butter. The milk is not a classic ingredient at all, but I like the hint of creaminess it adds. Then came a little nutmeg, and a little pinch of finely chopped candied lemon- the kind you use for baking- this adds a great touch which nobody will quite be able to place!

I then turned off the heat and let it sit and "calm down" for a minute or two before serving. I plated it up with the golden porcini slices on top, a sprinkle of parsley and a grind of fresh pepper... yes it IS a simple affair and it is a crowd pleaser every time! You should give it a try... that's what I think!

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