I've been craving a nice, hearty risotto for a while. With the cold and wet weather recently, I decided this week would be a good time for this type of dish. I had it in my mind that I wanted to make something with mushrooms and leeks. I wanted it to be savory and woodsy, encompassing the flavors of fall. I have a collection of nice dried mushrooms waiting to be used; some chanterelles picked by friends, and some dried porcinis that I picked with my mushroom picking club. The result: savory, warming risotto, with mushrooms and leeks.
Risotto is very easy to cook, just be sure you stir it frequently — it sticks to the bottom of your pot otherwise! And, of course, it's all the stirring that breaks down the rice to create the smooth, creamy "sauce" of a good risotto.
This recipe is quite straightforward — read through our instructions on how to make great risotto at home if you want a quick refresher on the method. This recipe is also flexible! You can use all fresh mushrooms, or a mixture of dried and fresh. Whatever appeals to you (or, of course, whatever your mushroom-hunting friends bring to your door).
Soaking dried chanterelle and porcini mushrooms
Mushroom and Leek Risotto
1/2 ounce dried mushrooms, optional
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large leek, washed thoroughly and sliced
1/2 shallot or 1/4 small red onion, finely diced
2 cups roughly chopped fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups (1 pound) white arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine or cream sherry
4 to 5 cups liquid, such as chicken broth, beef broth, the water used to steep dried mushrooms
Parmesan cheese, to serve
If using dried mushrooms, place them in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside. In a large pot, heat the butter over medium heat. Sauté the leek and shallot in the butter for 10 minutes, or until soft.
Push the leek and shallot up against the edge of the pan, and raise the heat to medium-high. Add the fresh mushrooms to the center of the pan. Cook for several minutes without stirring, then flip them over and cook until nicely browned. If using dried mushrooms, drain them now (reserving the steeping liquid) and add them to the pan. Stir in the thyme leaves and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Add the rice and stir to coat evenly with the butter and vegetables. Sauté for several minutes, or until the rice begins to turn translucent. Pour in the white wine or cream sherry and stir until it is nearly gone.
Continue adding the remaining liquid (broth, or a mixture of broth and the steeping liquid from the dried mushrooms), stirring frequently. Continue adding liquid and stirring until the rice is cooked to al dente, cooked-through completely but still with a bit of a bite. Taste and season if necessary with additional salt and pepper.
Serve with grated Parmesan on top.
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(Images: Faith Durand; Kathryn Hill)