Sunday, November 15, 2009


Risotto has a bad rap for being difficult.  It really isn't.  It's a bit high-maintenance in the stirring department, so I like to do as much prep work ahead of time as possible.  Don't make this along with several other items that need attention during the last 10-15 minutes before serving.  But it's mindless; just stand there stirring frequently.  I can be doing that while I chat with guests or watch the kids color.  Easily made vegetarian; one of my very favorite meatless dishes.  I don't have a lot of vegetarian recipes that feel hearty without lots of cream and cheese.  Risotto definitely feels like "real food," and it's even vegan if you use olive oil and skip the parmesan.  For some reason this feels seasonal and appropriate to me year-round.

This is my basic recipe, combined from recipes in The Best Recipe and Mark Bittman's vegetarian cookbook (which I reviewed here).  This is my favorite combination, but I'll list other versions below.

Risotto with Mushrooms and Asparagus

1/2 c dried porcini mushrooms
5 cups stock, veggie or chicken
Few saffron threads, optional
6 T butter
2 c Arborio rice
salt & pepper
1/2 c white wine
1 c chopped fresh mushrooms
1/2 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces

1/2 c grated Parmesan, plus extra for passing

1.  Rinse the dried mushrooms, soak in hot water to reconstitute.
2.  Warm the stock in a saucepan, keep it over low heat.  Add saffron if using.
3.  Heat 3T butter in dutch oven or nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, cook until soft.
4.  Add rice and some salt, cook until glossy and coated, 2-3 minutes.
5.  Add wine, let bubble away.  Add 3 cups broth.  Drain mushrooms, chop and add to rice along with half of the soaking liquid.  Let simmer.
6.  Meanwhile, saute the fresh mushrooms and asparagus in the other 3T butter over medium-high heat until lightly brown and almost crisp, about 7-10 minutes.
7.  When the stock is almost evaporated, add more, a ladle (1/2 cup or so) at a time.  This is the high maintenance part.  You don't have to stir constantly, but don't leave it for more than a minute.  It will stick quickly.  Start paying close attention about 20 minutes after it started cooking.  You want to taste frequently and catch it when it's "al dente."  It should be tender and creamy but have a tiny bit of firmness in the center.  This will take another 10 minutes or so.  If you use up all of the broth start adding hot water.
8.  Stir in the mushrooms, asparagus, and parmesan.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve immediately, with extra parmesan at the table.

Basic: either chicken or veggie broth, no veggies added
Just mushrooms, no asparagus
Frozen peas:  thaw and add in last 5 minutes
Carrots, beets, potatoes, broccoli, etc.:  Briefly boil until barely tender,  quickly saute in butter, stir in at last minute

1 comment:

mandi said...

this is one of my favorite brandi dishes. so good...

i think you need to have me over soon

; )