Monday, September 7, 2009

Mushroom Risotto

Welcome to risotto, the Italian version of rice. But what's the difference between a plain old rice dish and risotto? Here's what trusty wikipedia has to say about it: "the main feature of a risotto dish is the maintenance of starch at the end of cooking that binds the grains together as a cream...Properly cooked risotto is rich and creamy but still with some resistance or bite (al dente), and with separate grains. The traditional texture is fairly should easily spread out but not have excess watery liquid around the perimeter."

In other words, first, you coat the rice in butter. Then you add some kind of wine (in this case, white wine). Once the liquid has been absorbed into the grains/evaporated, you increase the heat and gradually add liquid (in this case, vegetable broth) in small amounts while stirring very frequently. This process allows the starch inside of the rice to escape into the liquid, creating a creamy texture. And this creamy texture is what makes risotto different from any other rice dish.

It's not a difficult dish to make, but it does take some patience while adding the liquid and stirring. We definitely think it's worth it.

Mushroom Risotto
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit December 1999
Pictures by Caroline

3 14 1/2-ounce cans vegetable broth
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 pound assorted mushrooms (such as oyster, crimini or stemmed shiitake), sliced
1 cup arborio rice* or medium-grain rice*
1/2 cup white cooking wine*
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  1. Bring vegetable broth to simmer in medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low; cover and keep broth hot.
  2. Melt 3 tablespoons butter with olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped onions; sauté 1 minute. Add mushrooms; cook until mushrooms are tender and juices are released, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add rice and stir to coat. Add wine and simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes.
  4. Increase heat to medium-high. Add 3/4 cup hot vegetable broth and simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently. Add remaining hot vegetable broth 3/4 cup at a time, allowing broth to be absorbed before adding more and stirring frequently until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh thyme. Serve warm.
*Our grocery store was out of arborio rice, so we used what we happened to have: sushi rice! It worked just fine.
**I usually avoid using cooking wine when I cook (which seems odd, I know, since it's called "cooking" wine. Personally I don't think cooking wine should even exist) because it adds so much extra salt to your dish. But if you don't have any regular white wine, cooking wine is an acceptable substitute. I would, however, recommend using low-sodium broth if you're using cooking wine.

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