This can be made vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, and can be a hearty main dish or a side. It requires attention while cooking up to the last minute, so choose easy things to go with it. Allow about an hour to make it from start to finish. I like to serve this as a main course with a salad or a warm, colorful vegetable dish. Serves up to 4 as a main dish or up to 8 as a side.
Chef’s knife, cutting board, 2 quart sized bowls, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, fine-mesh strainer, paper towel, saute pan, stock pot that will hold about 3 quarts, wooden spoon, ladle that holds about 1/2 cup of liquid. Optional: cheese grater
Ingredients (all quantities approximate):
-1 ounce dried wild mushrooms. Porcini are good; or use a package of dried mixed wild mushrooms.
-1 quart mushroom, vegetable or chicken stock. I am happy with boxed stock. Have extra on hand in case you need more than a quart.
-4 plump garlic cloves
-2 shallots, each about the size of a ping pong ball. You can substitute a small yellow onion if shallots are not available.
-About 12 ounces of fresh mushrooms. You can use brown (crimini) cultivated mushrooms, wild mushrooms, or a combination.
-¼ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
-½ cup dry white wine
-1 tablespoon soy sauce (omit if using sausage)
– ½ teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh)
-¼ teaspoon dried rosemary (or ½ teaspoon fresh)
-1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
-Optional: 2 chicken or pork sausages, spicy to taste, about 3 ounces each
-2-3 tablespoons olive oil
-Optional: Fresh grated Reggiano Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese to pass at the table
-Optional: 1/2 cup Italian (flat-leaf) parsley for garnish
Set up any other dishes you plan to serve with the risotto so they will require very little attention until serving.
Put a bit more than a pint of water on to boil. While the water is coming to a boil, put the dried mushrooms in the strainer and rinse them under cold running water. Put them in a bowl. When the water boils, pour it over the dried mushroom. Let the dried mushrooms soak while you do the next few steps.
Put the stock in the stock pot and set it on a back burner of your stove. Put the saute pan on the burner in front of the stock pot. Lay out your ladle and wooden spoon by the stove.
Peel and chop the shallots. Mince the garlic. (Garlic tip—push down firmly on the garlic clove with the flat side of your chef’s knife to loosen the skin for easy peeling. Before mincing, slice the garlic clove in half lengthwise and remove and discard any sprout you find in the middle. Garlic presses do save time, but I find the flavor and texture of pressed garlic inferior.)
Carefully wash and slice the fresh mushrooms about 1/8” thick.
Carefully remove the sun-dried tomatoes from the jar to leave most of the oil in the jar, and if they are not already chopped, chop them.
Put the soy sauce (if not using sausage) and wine in a cup.
Measure out the herbs and rice.
If using Parmesan or Romano cheese, grate.
If using sausage, remove the meat from the casings.
If using parsley, wash, dry and chop.
Line the strainer with a paper towel and place it over the other bowl. Pour the soaked dried mushrooms and their liquid into the strainer, catching the soaking liquid below the strainer and squeezing the mushrooms to extract as much liquid as you can. Carefully remove the paper towel, leaving the mushrooms in the strainer. Again rinse the mushrooms under cold running water, squeeze them as dry as you can, and chop them coarsely. Add the saved soaking liquid to the stock in the pot on the stove.
Warm two tablespoons of olive oil in the saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring often with the wooden spoon, until it begins to soften and turn translucent. Add the garlic and cook and stir another minute or so. It’s OK if the garlic starts to get golden, but preferable not to let it start getting dark brown, as overcooking causes it to turn bitter.
Turn on the heat under the stock and let it come to a boil while you do the next few steps. When it boils, turn the heat down to keep it barely bubbling.
Add the fresh and dried mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and optional sausage to the saute pan. Continue to cook, stirring often, about five minutes. If you are using sausage, crumble it with your spoon as you stir. If the pan seems too dry and things are starting to stick, add a bit more olive oil.
Add the rice and herbs to the saute pan and stir until the grains are lightly coated with oil and liquid from the mushrooms. Again, if it seems too dry, add a bit more olive oil.
Add the wine (and soy sauce if not using sausage) to the saute pan and continue to cook, stirring slowly but constantly. The liquid should bubble, but not too fast. When the liquid is almost gone, add a ladle full of hot stock from the stockpot to the saute pan. Continue to stir slowly and constantly, letting the liquid bubble but not too fast. You want to keep the rice from sticking on the bottom of the pan. When that liquid is almost all absorbed into the rice, add another ladle full of stock. Continue cooking in this manner, adding one ladle full of stock at a time and cooking and stirring until it is almost completely absorbed into the rice, until all the stock is used up. (Be sure to turn off the heat under the stock pot when it’s empty.) Taste the risotto. It should feel firm to the bite but not crunchy. If it does not feel done, add some more stock to your stockpot and continue adding ladles full of stock one at a time, cooking as indicated, and tasting until the risotto’s texture is to your liking. Remove from heat and stir freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Garnish with parsley (if using) and serve immediately, passing grated Parmesan or Romano cheese at the table. If everyone in your party likes cheese, you can stir the cheese into the risotto along with the black pepper.
(c) 2015 Susie Allison-Litton. All rights reserved.