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A Fungus Amongus

Little Shack went out with his grandmother tonight to a movie which meant that I could cook something for dinner that he would not like, always an exiting occasion around here. If you are a parent, you know how thrilling that can be - when the kid is away you can watch R rated movies at full volume, eat spicy Indian food and swear at the dog.

Honestly, I can't really complain because he isn't a picky eater and he likes pretty much all the foods we like. When we do eat something he doesn't care for, he doesn't make faces or declare it disgusting or anything but there are dishes I just don't make anymore because I know he will not eat it.

Mushroom risotto is one of those dishes. We love mushrooms but I realize we have just stopped cooking with them all together because Little Shack really dislikes them and they aren't something you can just pick out of a dish as they really impart their fungasy flavour to the entire dish. You are either a mushroom person, or you are not.

I went out today and bought a whack of fresh and dried mushrooms and almost skipped home from the grocery store, full of anticipation and glee because I am a geek and only a geek could get excited over a bag of mushrooms. Okay, Shack came home early because he was excited about them too so at least I am in good company. I wish I could have find a wider variety of fresh but I bought what they had. If you  can get your hands on fresh exotic mushrooms, this is a great way to use them.

After I spent the morning reading a ton of recipes because I want to try to use my cookbooks more , I decided that since I couldn't find anything that was exactly what I wanted, I would just wing it. This made enough for both of us to have a healthy sized bowl with another left over. It would certainly serve 3 as a main course or 4 as a first course.

Mamashack's Mushroom Risotto

250g brown button mushrooms
0.5 oz or 14g of dried mixed mushrooms (shitake, portobello, porcini, chantarelle, oyster)
1 large portobello
200 gr fresh shitakes
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 onion or 2 shallots, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup ice wine or sherry or port ( i used an iced cider from Quebec)
good glug or two of olive oil
about 3 tbls butter
1110 ml chicken stock
3/4 cup white wine
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

peas or green beans or some asparagus etc optional addition

soak the dried mushrooms in some hot water to cover them for about 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, squeezing out the excess liquid back into the bowl , chop and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid into the pot where you have the chicken stock standing by.

heat about 1 tbls butter and a glug of olive oil over med heat in a heavy pan, add half the onion/celery/garlic and sauté til softened for a few minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and sauté until they start to get a bit of colour. Add the wine/brandy/port/sherry and the thyme let it cook off for a couple of minutes, cover the pan and leave for at least five minutes before removing the cover, turning down the heat to med low and let them continue to cook while you start the risotto. I used Pinnacle Iced Cider because I had a bit left from the night before and thought it would work well with the woodsy shrooms and it did.

this is the iced cider I used for the mushrooms

Make sure you have the pot of stock barely simmering on the back burner. As well as the strained mushroom soaking liquid, i like to add any veggie scraps i have to flavour the stock - in this case, a chunk of celery, bits of onion and mushroom stalks.

those are rehydrated mushroom bits not burnt onion
Put the pan you will cook the risotto on the burner just slightly over med heat. Add a tbls of butter, a glug of olive oil and when the butter melts, add the other half of the celery/onion/garlic. After a minute or two, add the rice and stir for a minute. Now add the drained mushrooms that you had soaked, chopped and set aside and continue to sauté for another minute or two. Add the 3/4 cup of white wine all at once and stir the rice until the wine is almost completely evaporated. Now is the time to start adding your hot stock, a ladle full at a time, stirring after each addition continuously until almost all the liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladle full.

Lather, rinse repeat until you have used about half the stock or for about 10 minutes. At this time, i throw in the mushrooms that have been sort of stewing away in the ice wine and stir them into the rice. If you choose to add anything green like peas , add that now too.

Continue to ladle the stock in one ladle full at a time, stirring constantly for another 10 minutes or until you have used most of the stock and the rice is cooked and creamy (i start testing the rice after about 15 minutes, every minute until it is done)

Once you decide it's cooked perfectly, take the pan off the heat and add the last tbls of butter and about 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan and stir that in fully. This final step is called "mantecare" and it really finishes the dish and gives it a silky, smooth texture. Some people seem to skip this step but I never do because it just doesn't taste complete without it.

This turned out really great. Of course, it could just be that both of us are so mushroom deprived that anything chock full of mushrooms was going to make us swoon but judging from the guttural man noises coming from the other side of the table, I think it was actually really tasty.

 Because we are supposed to be eating totally clean and healthy after our holiday bacchanal, I served it with a nice little salad of mache and some sliced veggies that I had leftover from making coleslaw. I am hoping that the salad cancelled out the butter, oil and cheese in the risotto. Sort of like how food eaten on an airplane doesn't count.

Mushroom-Herb Risotto on FoodistaMushroom-Herb Risotto

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