I was blessed to have a semester abroad in Italy and live with a family while I was a junior in college. Every night, my Italian mother would rush through the door at 8:00 to begin making dinner. She and her daughter owned a lingerie boutique that closed at 7:30pm. She literally ran into the house and went straight to the kitchen to start preparations. I always put my homework aside to talk to her while she cooked and try to pick up some of her recipes. This was something she served as a "primo piatto". She would probably be a little surprised that I serve it as a winter meal with a nice crisp salad with balsamic vinaigrette. However, I did learn that wild mushroom risotto tastes best with a glass of Orvieto Classico.
Wild Mushroom Risotto
32-48 oz chicken stock
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup arborio rice/risotto
.5 oz mixed wild mushrooms (dried)
2 tbs fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 tbs. dried) - thyme also works well
4 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 medium yellow onion
1 clove garlic
2-3 tbs. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Begin by placing a large, deep saute pan on a medium high burner. Add olive oil. Saute onions just until they are clear and start to soften. Add the garlic to the pan. As the onions are softening, pour 1 cup boiling water over the dried mushrooms and soak in a separate bowl (not on the stove). I like to just use a glass measuring cup for this project and just microwave the water.
Return to the pan and add the risotto and stir briskly to coat each piece with oil. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the edges of each kernel start to become clear. Add the chicken stock about a half to 3/4 cup at a time and stir briskly until it is almost full absorbed by the rice...keep adding a little at a time while the risotto is fully cooked. After about twenty minutes, drain the mushrooms that were soaking in water (reserving the liquid). Add the reserved liquid to the pan and keep stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once the risotto starts to absorb the mushroom broth, it will start to turn a light brown. At this point is is safe to throw in all of the mushrooms and thyme or rosemary. It usually takes about 40-45 minutes of constant stirring and adding the liquid to full cook the risotto. Once it is cooked, it will have a creamy consistency. The risotto will be mostly translucent with a small white cloud if you like it a bit al dente. At this point, you can grate Parmesan cheese on it, stir gently while still in the pan. Divide among four bowls and serve with additional grated Parmesan cheese.