We’ve travelled around quite a lot over the last years. Okay, so basically Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Norway, but still. In most of those countries we met some really nice, if not awesome Flickr peeps, and most of them got a taste of what has got to be the simplest yet most delicious risotto. Given that we won’t travel that much over the next months (years?) I thought it would be about time to go public with it.
Last weekend, in Bergen, I cooked it once more (which makes Astrid and Sølve the people who had our risotto the most times), and it hit me that the world needs to know about it. It’s so freakishly simple, yet everyone else will praise your cooking skills when you make it. And that’s the kind of joy I don’t want to deprive you of.
I also read Molly’s column in “bon appetit”, and my word, her writing on cooking is awesome. So I kind of felt inspired to write this down. No way I’m gonna reach the level of her writing, but one can try.
It’s pretty amazing that something looking rather uninviting can taste so delicious, but I’m telling you, you’ll love it. If you like mushrooms, that is. I’ve cooked it like a billion times, and I tried to add several twists to the original recipe, some of which I’m going to reveal (if you promise not to tell anyone).
Most people liked it (or at least they pretended they did, either way, fine with me), and even though the hardest part of it really is cleaning the mushrooms. Everything else just magically falls into place.
We usually eat the risotto by itself. Me being a vegetarian pretty much makes it a main dish, but if you fancy, fix some Entrecôte meat to your liking. We usually add a nice salad or better yet, fried green asparagus. It’s heaven I tell you.
You’re going to need mushrooms, lots of them. Best suitable are the brown ones as seen in the photo. Get some scallions as well. Normal onions will do, but scallions are preferable.
Now the brown mushrooms are compulsory. Optionally I dare you to get porcini, the king of the crop when it comes to mushroom risottos. Dried ones will do (remember to let them soak in water for two hours, and reuse the water for the risotto), but frozen or (I don’t even dare say it) fresh ones are will rock that risotto.
The boring part is really to clean all the mushrooms. I usually do it, but if you trust your local mushroom dealer, go ahead and just slice them up real nice without cleaning them. Needless to say that mushrooms shouldn’t be washed with water, though I’m not sure if that’s an urban myth your mom told you, or if it’s actually the truth.
You also need vegetable broth. If you’re not vegetarian, any broth will do, but don’t quote me on that one. Personally I don’t imagine fish fond going very nicely with it, but really, I couldn’t imagine using anything but vegetable broth.
Apparently it seems to be the norm that white wine is used as a base for the risotto. I do no such thing, since I’m steering clear of alcohol, so I only use vegetable broth (with a twist from time to time, told you there would be a twist here and there, right?), but you’re free to replace the broth in the recipe (better yet, some of it) with white wine.
Did I tell you about the rice? Shame I didn’t. Of course you need rice, not just any rice though, you want risotto rice, e.g. Arborio. Make sure you get the peeled version, you don’t want to wait two hours for your risotto to finish, trust me.
The remaining ingredients are butter and parsley. Nothing else you say? Not really. That’s pretty much it. Oh right, there’s Parmesan, lots of Parmesan. And by lots, I mean you better get a kilo right away. You will need it.
And except for the twists of course, there are always twists. But first let’s have a look at a nice list of what you’re going to need. This dish is for two people, but I usually cook a whole week worth of risotto, so I just throw in whatever is available.
- 200 grams Arborio rice
- 300 grams of brown mushrooms
- 1 liter of vegetable broth
- 25 grams of butter
- A bundle of parsley, flat leaf
- A bundle of scallions
- A garlic clove
- As much Parmesan as you can get your hands on
After you cut the mushrooms in slices (however thick you like them, you can even just quarter them or cut them in half). Doesn’t matter, they will shrink, and they will taste delicious either way. Chop the leeks. Meanwhile put a big pan (and by big I mean a big-ass pan) on the stove, and put some olive oil in it. After the oil is heated (you did turn on the stove, did you?), sauté the scallions. Before they turn brownish, put in the mushrooms, and I mean all of them. As you turn them, put some more olive oil on them, otherwise they’ll start burning and stick to the pan.
When they start turning brown, add salt, a not just a pinch, more like a flat tea spoon. That will help bring out the mushroom juices which will be very helpful for the next step.
Add the rice. Lower the heat a little bit so it won’t burn. Stir in the rice with the mushrooms and let it take in the mushroom juices for a few minutes. When they’re gone, pour in the broth, just enough to cover mushrooms and rice. Make sure you cover the pan with a lid, you don’t want the fluids to leave the pan without doing their magic.
Now you can start to relax, because the hard part is over. The only thing you have to do from time to time is to add more broth, because the rice will soak it all in, and the mass is turning into a sticky something with mushrooms in it.
Whilst adding broth I constantly add pepper. Somehow I like my risotto with a lot of pepper in it. It gets even better when you have leftovers, and eat them the next day. The pepper taste will grow stronger and stronger. Keep adding some salt too, depending on how salty your broth is, remember though that the Parmesan is very salty too, so don’t add too much.
It usually takes about thirty to forty minutes until the rice is done. You’re free to watch the current episode of The Simpsons while it cooks, but remember to pour in more broth from time to time. Add the chopped garlic, when you get the feeling the rice is almost done.
The finishing touch is the butter and the Parmesan. Stir in the butter, it will add a nice creamyness to the risotto. Grind a nice load of the Parmesan directly into the risotto. Use a bowl if you’re paranoid that you might waste something.
Add the chopped parsley, either into the pan, or sprinkle it over the risotto after you put it on a plate.
That’s it. Add heaps of Parmesan to your liking, and enjoy!
Now, there were twists. I told you that, right?
First one is walnuts. Before you put in the rice, add a handful of chopped walnuts to the mushrooms. Pine nuts work as well, but I just love walnuts with my risotto. They add a nutty (duh!) flavor, and that works well with the risotto.
Second: If you like the risotto to taste like wine, add a dash of balsamic vinegar at the end. Not too much, otherwise it will pretty much nix the taste of the risotto.
Third: As an alternative (which I actually prefer) to balsamic, add a teaspoon of truffle infused olive oil at the end. My god, the smell and the taste, it will make your guests worship your cooking skills.
Fourth: Now there, I already gave you three twists. Find some on your own, will ya?