Mushroom Risotto

It has been raining north of here, which means many, many mushrooms.  Of course, we are not eating personally harvested mushrooms.  No, no.  Without our transplanted back to the Mid-West mycologist-cum-farmer to guide us through a forest foraging, the husband trusts himself to gather one mushroom and one mushroom only--the chanterelle. I applaud his restraint.  However, that doesn't mean that we don't delight in finding (and photographing) mushrooms of all sorts.  And lucky for us, the redwoods up in Fort Bragg provide plenty of opportunity:

While I recognize that all of those mushrooms are probably poisonous, I once had a friend who owned a mushroom farm in Pennsylvania.  I met him while I was in Ireland, and upon my return to the states, he invited me to his mushroom farm in, I kid you not, the Mushroom Capital of the World (or so the Wikipedia page proclaims).  Sure, I was fascinated by all of the growing rooms, the sheer amount of button mushrooms in a a row, the proper way to pick mushrooms (on which I was summarily instructed), and the loamy smell of the compost.  However, it was the thrill of driving a backhoe that has remained with me.  Oh, pshaw, you say--you who drive backhoes all the time.  Let me tell you, for this woman, driving that contraption was a blast.  I was not very good at it, and I sure as rain could not pick up the compost with the digger arm thing (see, I am very technical), but I had a blast making a mess of it all.  Making a mess is serious business.  

In honor of all these mushrooms and mushroom-related memories, I made this mushroom risotto from Fields of Greens.  As you may know from previous entries, I am a huge fan of Greens Restaurant and their subsequent cookbooks.  While all of these recipes take ample time, if you have it, you will not find it wasted.  Further, go the extra step of making the stock.  Not only will the house smell amazing while the stock simmers on the stove, it makes the risotto rich and a little acidic, which is needed to counterbalance the earthiness of the mushrooms.  

Finally, we had great intentions of making these into risotto cakes the next day.  However, a reheated bowl of risotto with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese is just as good.  Why mess with a good thing?  Unless it involves a backhoe.  Then mess all you want.

Mushroom Risotto with Leeks and Fennel
Adapted from Fields of Greens

Serves 4-6 

Tomato-Mushroom Stock (see recipe below)

1/4 ounce dried porcini, soaked in 1/2 cup warm water for 10 minutes
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb white mushrooms, washed and sliced
salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 medium-sized leek, white part only, cut in half lengthwise, thinly sliced, and washed
1 medium-sized fennel bulb, quartered lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbs coarsely chopped Italian parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese

1.   Pour the stock into a saucepan, bring it to a boil, and reduce it to 6 cups. Keep the stock warm over low heat.

2.  Drain the porcini and save the soaking liquid to add to the risotto later.  (If the liquid is sandy, let the sand settle and then carefully pour off the liquid.)  Finely chop the porcini.  Set them aside.

3.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet; add the white mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper. Sauté over medium-high heat until the mushrooms are golden and crisp on the edges; add half the garlic. Sauté for another minute or two more and then transfer the mushrooms to a bowl.

4.  Heat the butter and remaining oil in the pan and add the leeks, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few pinches of pepper. Sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until the leeks are wilted. Add the fennel and remaining garlic; sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Begin adding the stock a cup at a time, allowing the rice to absorb each cup of stock completely before adding more. Keep the pan on medium heat and continue to stir.

5.  When the rice has absorbed 3 cups of the stock, add the sautéed mushrooms and wine. 6.  Continue to add the stock, stirring constantly, until you have used 5 cups. . As you stir in the last cup of stock, add 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few pinches of pepper. At this point the grains of rice will be a little toothy and the risotto quite saucy; it's ready to serve. Stir in half of the parsley. 

6.  Serve immediately in warm bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and the remaining parsley.

Tomato- Mushroom Stock for Risotto 

7 cups

2 quarts cold water
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 leek top, chopped

8 garlic cloves, crushed with the side of a knife blade
1 tsp salt
1 oz dried shiitake mushrooms

2 medium-sized carrots
1 large unpeeled potato, chopped
1/4 lb white mushrooms, sliced
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 28-oz can tomatoes with juice
6 parsley springs, chopped
6 fresh thyme sprigs
3 fresh sage leaves
2 fresh oregano sprigs
1/2 tsp peppercorns

1.   Pour 1/2 cup water into a stockpot and add the onion, leek top, garlic, and salt. Give them a stir, then cover the pot and cook vegetables gently over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and cover with remaining water.

2.  Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Pour the stock through a strainer, press as much liquid as you can from the vegetables, and discard them (or save the potatoes and eat them with salt as a snack, because the risotto is a long ways off). Use immediately or cool and refrigerate or freeze. The stock will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days and indefinitely in the freezer.


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