When the temperature falls well below freezing my definition of comfort food includes lots of deep down warmth. Just opening the fridge this week has made me re-think why I was originally standing in front of this monstrous cavity of cold air. For the second time in this blustery run of arctic weather I have solved the comfort food dinner craving with a gorgeous mushroom risotto. Roasted beet risotto is a staple in our house, so changing the risotto menu wasn't the most natural jump. But a beautiful selection of mushrooms at the market changed all that. I love cremini mushrooms, but feel free to use your favorite. Jaime Oliver's first Naked Chef cookbook was my intro to this recipe but I improvised easily from that foundation.
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
10 oz fresh cremini (or your fave) mushrooms
14 oz Arborio rice
4 TBL olive oil
4 finely chopped shallots
a few stalks of celery or ½ bulb of fennel, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup dry white vermouth or dry white wine
5 TBL butter
3 ½ oz freshly grated parmesan
1 large handful of flat parsley, chopped
1 handful of thyme, chopped
1 pinch of pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)
1 squeeze of a fresh lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Clean and dry the mushrooms. Slice them thinly, or tear in half, depending on the type you have chosen. In a medium hot large (cast iron) pan heat 2 TBL of olive oil, and 2 chopped shallots. Let soften than add the mushrooms and thyme. Cook for about a minute, tossing, then add 1 chopped garlic clove, and a pinch of salt; until they are nicely tender and tasty. Add some parsley, a hefty pinch of pimenton, a squeeze of lemon and a little black pepper. Toss again and taste. Empty the mushrooms into a bowl and set aside.
Pour the stock into a separate pot and set on low heat. Wipe out cast iron pan but do not wash. Heat remaining 2 TBL olive oil, 2 chopped shallots, celery or fennel, and a pinch of salt. Cook these veggies for about 3 minutes then add garlic. After about two minutes, once the vegetables have softened, add the rice. Turn up the heat and slowly stir, as the rice becomes coated with the oil. Keep the rice moving. If it starts to color or stick, turn down the heat. After 2-3 minutes it will start to turn translucent, and maybe crackle. At this point add the vermouth or wine, stirring continuously.
Once the vermouth has been soaked up add a ladle or two of stock. Lower the heat to medium high, but don’t boil the rice in the stock. It needs to absorb, not burn off. Next, add mushrooms. Set a timer for 2 minutes and add a ladle or two of stock every two minutes, stirring as you add the stock, but then leave it to cook until the timer rings again. I have found this method easier, and it prevents the rice from becoming tough. Don't let the rice dry out, add enough stock each time to keep it just shy of drying out and sticking.
After about 15 minutes, taste the rice. Is it cooked? Add a pinch of salt and continue cooking until the rice is soft with a slight bite. Check seasoning. When rice is done remove from heat, add butter and most of the Parmesan cheese. Gently stir. Serve with more sprinkled cheese and chopped parsley.