Cookbook:Risotto ai Funghi
Risotto ai funghi is probably the most renowned of all risotto dishes, and should ideally be cooked with porcini mushrooms when they begin to come into season in July in Italy. However, dried porcini (or indeed any other mushroom) is fine.
Being originally a dish of the common people it's easy, and very tasty.
- 250 g Arborio, Vialone Nano or Carnaroli risotto rice
- 25 g salted butter
- 1 small (150 g) white onion, finely chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 litre of chicken stock
- 200 g of porcini mushrooms, fresh or about 50 g dried
- a small bunch of flat-leaved parsley
- 1 cupful of white, dry wine
- 100 g freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
- If using dried mushrooms, soak them for at least 20 minutes in 200 ml of warm water. If the instructions on the packet say they should be soaked for less time, ignore them. Once they have reconstituted properly, chop about ½ of them into small pieces and roughly chop the rest. There's no need to soak fresh mushrooms.
- Melt half the butter in preferably a medium sized frying pan, or saucepan, on a medium heat.
- "Sweat" the onion and garlic in the butter until the onion is translucent. Under no circumstances should the onions and garlic burn. If they do burn, throw them away and start over.
- Now add the rice and swirl it around in the pan until it is also coated in the butter. Leave for about 30 seconds. Again it should not even come close to burning.
- Now splash in the wine - it should fizz and steam dramatically - and wait for it to evaporate.
- Add about half the stock slowly, one ladle at a time.
- Some feel slowly adding the stock is nonsense because they are off doing something else risking the rice "catching" and burning. Some feel makes no discernible difference to the taste. Most would agree that this doesn't affect the taste, but does change the texture. If you don't mind a different texture, you may also use a food processor at this step.
- Stir the rice about every 2 minutes to release the starch and add more stock if there is the slightest chance of the rice drying out.
- After about 5 minutes of cooking add the mushrooms and their juice (or liquor as it is called). If using dried mushrooms, make sure to avoid adding the dirt that has sedimented at the bottom of the container in which they've dried.
- The secret of Risotto is that the rice should be cooked to a point the Italians call al dente - which means the rice should have a bit of bite left, rather than be squashy and flaccid. This takes anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes, but be sure to start testing small spoonfuls after about 15 minutes cooking.
- The rice should be fairly glutinous and not too runny. Ideally is should spread out on its own across the plate when served, not remaining in a lump in the middle.
- When you feel the rice is cooked, take it off the heat and add the chopped parsley, the remaining butter and about 2 Tbsp of the Parmesan cheese and mix it all in together. Adjust the seasoning as well. The Italians call this The Mantecatura period !
- Now let it stand for about 2 minutes and serve.
Personally I feel this is a dish that stands on its own, and should not be served with anything other than a green salad or maybe a cold Green Bean Salad.
Notes, tips and variations
- A good indication is a large CUPFUL of rice per person - although that makes TWO cupfuls of cooked rice, which is a lot of rice to eat without adding mushrooms, onion, cheese and a nibble of salad!
- Dried porcini mushrooms are almost better than fresh, as they flavour the water they are being reconstituted in with a wonderful mushroom flavour which adds to the taste !
- People have differing views on adding garlic. Mushrooms and garlic ARE a nice combination, but the garlic should never overpower the taste of the mushrooms.
- A common alternative is to add the mushrooms between sautéeing the onion and toasting the rice.
- Traditionally Italian risotto, and for that matter pasta, is served al dente - with some bite left in each grain, for some people this will seem to be undercooked, in which case use more stock.