Looking for something cozy, warm, and rich for dinner tonight? Here's a recipe adapted from my book, Not Your Mother's Casseroles — a creamy, thick, baked rice dish full of dark mushroom flavor. Topped with sweet caramelized onions and a flurry of pepper, it's one of the most satisfying things to eat when you're craving savory comfort food.
Baked Mushroom Risotto: Watch the Video
Risotto is known as a laborious stovetop dish, requiring up to an hour of constant stirring to achieve the perfect consistency of distinct, tender rice grains suspended in a creamy sauce. (There's not usually actual cream in risotto, unless it's dashed in at the end; the creaminess comes from the starch of the rice itself.)
So can a much simpler, more hands-off baked risotto simulate this effect? Well, not exactly. You won't have that perfect, idealized texture, but you'll still have something very, very good. This dish has soft, tender grains of rice, thick and creamy and warm. It doesn't turn to mush, though — this is still not a half-bad risotto, however unorthodox its preparation may be. And it is much more convenient; you have to do some cooking before putting the dish in the oven, but then you're free to make caramelized onions, finish your salad, and set the table while it bakes.
And yes, this version is fully vegan too. It's an especially great dish to make for a mixed dinner party of omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans. It's so good on its own that the omnivores will never miss the meat.
But they and the vegetarians can spoon a little mascarpone or sour cream into their dishes for an extra hint of creaminess, while the vegans can use Tofutti's Better than Cream Cheese. I have a lot of people in my life who need to eat dairy-free, and while I usually avoid dairy substitutes, I appreciate that sometimes it's just really nice to have something creamy. And I personally love the Tofutti products.
But neither of those additions are necessary — this dish is perfect winter comfort food all on its own.
Risotto is easily one of my favorite dishes to cook at home, but I've actually never tried a baked version. While I am the odd duck who finds stirring classic risotto on the stovetop soothing, I really did love the ease of this baked variation. The dried mushrooms, along with their rehydrating liquid and a splash of balsamic, lend such deep flavor to the dish. It's a vegan recipe, sure, but that depth makes it universally appealing, which means it's guaranteed to please a mixed group of eaters — omnivores and carnivores, too. It's so rich and flavorful, it doesn't really need much more of a garnish besides the caramelized onions, but as Faith suggests, a dollop of sour cream or mascarpone, if you're not vegan, or a dollop of cashew cream or Tofutti cream cheese, if you are, will gild the lily.
- Sheela, February 2018
Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions
Serves 4 to 6
dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms, finely chopped
olive oil, divided
yellow onions (about 2 pounds)
cremini mushrooms, sliced
large sprig fresh rosemary
Arborio or short-grain white rice
dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc (make sure it's vegan!)
low-sodium vegetable broth
freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 300°F. Rinse the dried mushrooms lightly to remove any dust or grit. Place the mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set aside to steep while you cook the onions.
Chop 1 of the onions into a fine dice. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 3-quart (or larger) ovenproof pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the diced onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden, about 8 minutes. Push the onions to the side of the pot, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add the cremini mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes without stirring. Flip the mushrooms and cook until they are quite brown and a crust is developing on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes more.
Drain the dried mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Add the dried mushrooms and rosemary sprig to the pan and sauté briefly. Add the rice and cook, stirring once or twice, until it begins to turn transparent, about 4 minutes.
Turn the heat to high and add the white wine, vinegar, broth, and reserved mushroom steeping liquid. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan as you add the liquid to deglaze any yummy mushroomy bits sticking to the pan. Stir in the salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and put it in the oven to bake for 35 minutes.
While the rice is baking, make the caramelized onions. Thinly slice the remaining 3 onions. Heat the remaining olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and sprinkle generously with salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn a dark mahogany brown. Let them go as long as you can; I usually cook mine for at least 30 minutes.
When the risotto has finished baking, remove the rosemary sprig, stir, and let it stand uncovered for 5 minutes before serving. Dish it up and top each bowl with a spoonful of caramelized onions, a little extra pepper, and, if desired, a scoop of sour cream, whipped mascarpone, or whipped Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Adapted from Not Your Mother's Casseroles, Harvard Common Press.