Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Risotto Stone! Deciphering the Art of Mushroom Risotto,

This Christmas over the holidays we are having guests at the Hedden House in Charleston SC.  I am preparing risotto! Now I suppose that risotto is a go to for me when entertaining because it is so easy and I love it. It is also a dish that folks don't always see down here in Chucktown at dinner parties unlike in New York city. And it helps that  risotto is one of my favorite dishes to make for people. I love when it is placed in front of them all creamy and delicious. I love when I am making it and it comes out perfectly complex and perfectly al dente. In short I love it!

But it was not always so.

I was a novice risotto eater and a virgin risotto cook when I moved to New York. Oh I had had it. At friends houses in Charleston or at restaurants.  I enjoyed it every time I had it. But I did not start making it until I moved in with my old roommate the lovely and talented Miss Cristen Hubbard-Miller, star of the broadway show "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway! indeed it was she who introduced me to the making of risotto at home.  In fact it was right when we moved in together to our newly found apartment in hell's kitchen as a sort of celebration meal for our new abode. She proposed we make risotto for dinner that night. I agreed and she got out an old recipe card, hand written and covered with the patina of home cooking. "Tomato Risotto" was the title, from the "Silver Palate Cookbook" and that's exactly what we made. It came out wonderfully. And I have been making that recipe ever since. In fact when I moved out Cristen wrote me up my very own recipe card on a cute little card with some sort of culinary cartoon on it from one of those "From the recipe's of: " card sets. I have it to this day.

But as time wore on I made a host of different risottos. and of all of them, my favorite to this day is mushroom risotto! Sometimes I put some truffle oil in it, sometimes I put asparagus tips in it, but always mushrooms and always mushroom powder. And I love it.

But making a really good mushroom risotto is not hard. It does take a bit of practice to get it perfect. not to overcook the mushrooms and not to over cook the risotto. It must be served right as it is done and it must be served in a bowl. And it must be eaten with wine, good red wine. Those are my rules. Oh yeah it's also got to be cold out. Risotto for me is not a warm weather dish. It's a hearty stick to your ribs kinda meal.

Forrest's Better than Restaurant Risotto
Serves 3 as main course or 4 as Appetizer course

1 cup Arborio Rice
4 cups chicken stock held warm on stove top in a pot
1 cup light white wine ( NEVER OAKEY CHARDONNAY!! NEVER!!!) or vermouth
1 med onion finely diced
1/2 pound mushrooms sliced ( you can go as crazy as you want here with the kind of mushrooms depending on your budget but white ole button mushrooms will work I prefer to use "baby" portobella mushrooms ( better color and flavor than plain white and a good price point)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves finely chopped
3 tablespoons oilive oil
3 tablesoons butter
1 1/2 cups good parm cheese or your favorite hard salty grated cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons of dried porcini mushroom powder

Note* you can buy this or you can make it by buying dried procini mushrooms and grinding them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. ( Oh just make sure the grinder will never be used for coffee again if you use a coffee grinder, cause it will never taste the same again! It's like the old Viking addage... Rape. Pillage. THEN Burn! It can be a mess if you do it in another order! )

In a saute pan melt 1 tablespoon butter and add 1 tablespoon oil
Add mushrooms and cook till soft. Reserve liquid if any and remove from the heat and hold.
In the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot heat oil
Cook onion till almost tender then add rice
Stir to coat with the oil and cook till just begining to toast a little
Slowly add the wine and cook till almost absorbed then add rosemary and the reserved mushroom cooking liquid
At this point add the mushroom powder
Then slowly add a cup a stock and cook till almost all the liquid is absorbed
Keep adding the stock until about one cup is left in the stock holding pot
This will take the better part of up to thirty minutes.
At this point test the rice, if just tender but still a little "toothsome" aka "al dente", you are done!
If not add the last of the stock and cook till almost absorbed.
Add the Mushrooms,the cheese, the butter and the parsley and stir in to combine till rich and creamy.

Note* If you want to add white truffle oil at the end right before you serve I wouldn't blame you! If you don't like truffles I am sorry for you!

Serve warm with more cheese on the side. Enjoy Ya'll!

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