“And it rained and rained and it rained. Piglet so told himself that never in all his life, and he was goodness knows how old–three, was it, or four?–never had he seen so much rain. Days and days and days” – Winnie the Pooh.
Oh boy, this is how much rain we got here in Minnesota over the past few weeks. We got flooded. Literally. And what does one do after so much rain? One idea is putting rain boots on and jumping in the puddles (in my case street rivers and ponds) until happily drenched. Or grabbing a boat and paddling to work. But I had another idea for the blog, which did not involve more water...and that is mushroom picking.
When I was young, at our cabin in the mountains, and after days and days of rain, mushroom picking is what we did with my dad. We would wait a few days after the rain and if we were lucky enough to get several sunny days, we would get armed with baskets, bags, even huge burlap sacks (I am not kidding, my dad was pretty serious about mushroom picking), and we would be on our way to the mushroom kingdom.
When I first moved to the United States all the houses and the yards reminded me of my cabin. The idea of mushroom picking stayed with me, but the nicely trimmed and magazine perfect American lawns were not exactly the best place for mushroom picking. And it is not that I didn’t try – I did...and yes, I ate those mushrooms. But the result was a bit unexpected and quite unpleasant...
Since then I decided to go mushroom picking at my co-op only. They have such a good selection that to me, it is almost like mushroom picking in the forest.
So today’s recipe is for a wild mushroom risotto. I picked blend of a few kinds of mushrooms that appealed to my taste, but feel free to use or experiment with mushrooms that are available to you. If you are lucky enough to get a farmers’ market around you that offers wild, hand-picked mushroom, you should take advantage of it and get mushrooms from there. The flavor would be superior.
When cooking the mushrooms, use lots of butter and cook each kind separately. This way each kind will cook evenly. Make sure you don’t overcrowd your pan with mushrooms and season after they are done. Salt releases the water from the mushrooms and you don’t want boiling mushrooms in the pan. I used both lemon juice and lemon rind in the risotto, which makes it very fresh and flavorful. At the end I added some fresh thyme, an herb that I find to go very well with mushrooms, but if you wish, you can use parsley instead.
Enjoy, and let me know how it was.
Wild Mushroom Risotto
Serves 2 (main course), 4 (side dish)
• 7 tablespoons butter
• 1 lb fresh wild mushrooms (portabella, crimini, shiitake, hen of the woods, oyster)
• 2.5-3 cups low sodium chicken broth
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 small leek, finely chopped
• 3/4 cup arborio rice
• 1/4 cup white wine
• 1 garlic clove, minced
• 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
• Black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
Clean the mushroom by gently brushing or wiping the dirt from them. Remove the end part of the stems. Slice the large mushrooms, quarter the medium ones, halve the small mushrooms or leave them whole if tiny-tiny.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy/cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/3 of the mushrooms (same kind or size if possible). Sauté the mushrooms until tender and lightly brown, about 3-4 minutes by stir occasionally to avoid burning. Transfer the mushrooms in a medium bowl, sprinkle with salt and mix well. Repeat the same step with the remaining 2 batches of mushrooms and the 4 more tablespoons of butter.
Bring the chicken broth to simmer in a small saucepan. Keep warm. Add the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add the leek, sprinkle with salt and saute until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook until the edges begin to look translucent, about 1 minute. Add the wine and garlic and stir until the liquid is absorbed, about 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Repeat 2 more times by adding 1/2 cup of the chicken broth each time until the rice is cooked halfway through. Add the mushrooms and stir. Continue with the remaining broth by adding 1/2 cup each time until almost absorbed before adding more, until the rice is cooked but firm to bite (al dente) and creamy, about 7 minutes. Stir the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter, lemon zest and juice, Parmesan cheese and thyme.
Remove from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes. If risotto seems sticky you can add 1/4 cup of chicken broth to loosen the texture. Taste and season with pepper and salt if needed.
Serve the risotto immediately by dividing it between 2 bowls. Serve with a small bowl of grated Parmesan for topping.