So the much needed rain the latter part of last week and through the weekend here in Virginia was a welcome relief. In all of the damp, cloudy, somewhat gloominess of the days, a risotto came to mind. I couldn’t think of a better pairing for the weather than red wine, rice, and mushrooms. A perfect, warming comfort food to enjoy over the wet weekend.
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh white mushrooms
- 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 5 to 6 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 6 ounces 1/4-inch-thick slices pancetta (chopped)
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled
- 3 cups Arborio rice
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
(Recipe adapted from Epicurious)
In a small bowl soak the porcini mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes. Pour the soaking liquid through a fine sieve lined with a dampened paper towel or coffee filter into a bowl and reserve. Wash the porcini under cold water to remove any grit and pat dry. Chop the porcini finely. Chop finely 1/4 pound white mushrooms (about 1 1/2 cups) and reserve. Depending on size, halve and/or quarter the remaining white mushrooms. In a large, heavy skillet cook the white mushrooms in 4 tablespoons butter over moderate heat, stirring. Salt and pepper to taste and cook until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from heat and reserve the mushrooms in the skillet.
In a large saucepan heat the broth and keep at a low simmer. In a 5-to-6 quart heavy saucepan cook the pancetta over moderate heat, stirring, 5 minutes. Add the reserved finely chopped cremini or white mushrooms, 2 tablespoons of butter, onion, rosemary, sage, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until onion is softened. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring, until coated well with fat, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup wine and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Add the remaining cup of wine and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed.
Add 1 cup simmering broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next. Cook until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, 20 to 25 minutes.
Note: About halfway through cooking, add the reserved porcini soaking liquid and chopped porcini, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed, and continue cooking and adding broth in same manner.
During the last few minutes of cooking, reheat the reserved white mushrooms in the skillet over moderate heat, stirring. Cook until hot and stir in parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Add the mushrooms to the risotto. Stir in grated Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.
Making risotto is a labor of love and does take time. That said, it is a perfect meal to converse and enjoy a glass of wine with guests in the kitchen while bringing everything together. This dish, when incorporating seasonal ingredients, has a wonderfully elegant richness that can be served in any season.