One of my kitchen staples is a big jar of dried mushrooms. Even on empty fridge days I can make something delicious with a handful of dried mushrooms, some garden herbs, garlic and butter or olive oil, served on a bed of risotto, potatoes or pasta.
Porcini is a particular favourite of mine. Earthy and rich in flavour, a little can go a long way. Plus, it's fleshiness makes it a hearty and meat-free addition to an otherwise texture-lacking dish.
If you're in Paris, head over to G. Detou in the 4th and you'll find them on a high shelf just to the left of the entrance. Otherwise, ask about them at your local Italian grocer or fine foods shop.
I usually list my tips at the end, but I'm going to start with them, this time around, because I feel they're kinda indispensable, not to mention applicable to making all variants of risotto.
- Make sure neither burn the rice nor the onion. Apparently burning the rice locks in the starch (impacting the dish's creaminess) and burning the onions effects the dish's flavour.
- When softening the onion: use a low-medium heat that's just below burning point and soften the onion until it shows signs of translucency
- When toasting the rice: once again, keep the heat just below burning point and toast the rice, agitating regularly, until the rice is shiny
- A thoroughly heated up pan before adding the wine: The wine should sizzle when its added to the pan. Stir it in until its nearly all evaporated before adding the stock. I
- Keep your stock hot by keeping it in a simmering pot that's within easy reach of the risotto. The thing is, if you're adding tepid stock to the risotto you're slowing down the cooking process.
- It's the agitation of the rice that releases its starch, and it's the starch that renders the dish creamy. For best results, stir with diligence; risotto is not a dish to leave unattended.
- For the creamiest result: as mentioned before, releasing the rice's starch is important. In addition, vigorously beating in parmesan and butter at the end can really soften the finish.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20-35 minutes
- 400g rice (arborio, carnoroli or vialone nano varieties)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 brown or white onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup dried porcini
- 2.5 liters hot chicken stock, kept on a simmer
- 100g cold butter
- 100g grated parmesan
- handful of chopped parsley
- a smaller handful of thyme
- salt and pepper
- a wide thick-bottomed frying pan (if you have it, otherwise any frying pan you have)
- wooden spoon, ladle, pot - nothing that might be out of the ordinary.
- Soak the dried porcini in two cups of warm water for 15 minutes, then strain through a paper towel, preserving the liquid. Add the liquid to the stock and set the porcini aside for the time being.
- Heat the vegetable oil in the frying pan, add the onion and cook, stirring regularly for around 5 minutes or until just translucent, careful not to burn.
- Mix in the garlic and then add the rice, stirring for 2-3 minutes until the rice is gleaming. Again, try not to burn anything.
- Add the wine (the pan should sizzle when you do) and stir it in until nearly all of it is absorbed.
- Ladle by ladle, add the stock. Aim to stir it in continuously until nearly all of it is absorbed before adding another ladle.
- About 15 minutes into the process, mix in the porcini and some salt.
- Most risotto rice packets say that it should take 20 minutes for the risotto to cook, but I often find that it takes longer (perhaps I'm not stirring enough or keeping it hot enough?). If you're like me, be prepared to spend up to 35 minutes stirring.
- To check for readiness, regularly test a rice grain by either eating it or squishing it between a finger and thumb.
- When the risotto is ready, remove it from heat. Add the herbs, butter and parmesan and, more vigorously than ever, beat in the butter and parmesan for 1-2 minutes or until the butter has melted through and you've achieved a creamy finish.
- Taste test and season with the quantity of salt and pepper you think the dish needs.