This ultra-creamy wild mushroom risotto highlights the wonderfully earthy flavor of mushrooms thanks to a clever, easy trick: dry cooking.
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What fall ingredient inspires you the most? And what do you like best to do with it? My favorite fall harvest is wild mushrooms, and what I love to make most with wild mushrooms is risotto. Risotto is the very definition of comfort food in my book, and wild mushroom risotto is the icon of the transition from summer to fall in my kitchen.
I recently scored a loot of gorgeous fresh chanterelles at my local market. This small, neighborhood grocery store has outdoor stalls from spring to fall where they carry a small, rotating lineup of fresh produce. It’s such a gift because I usually get everything I’m looking for at any particular time within a walkable distance from my kitchen! This market is always the first to sell rhubarb in the spring and carries the most perfect fall strawberries through October.
Every late August, I eagerly wait for the market to lay out trays of freshly picked chanterelles. The chanterelles they sell could not be fresher: they’re firm, aromatic, and still have bits of earth attached to their stems. They look like they were picked overnight! Chanterelles are quite the catch: they have a smooth, fruity aroma and a mild, slightly peppery taste. They taste completely different from your regular button mushroom, which is why I’ve been able to convince several “mushroom haters” to eat—and enjoy!—my wild mushroom risotto over the years.
My wild mushroom of choice to make this risotto is chanterelles, but they can be expensive, so I usually use half chanterelles and half other mixed mushrooms. Using different mushroom varieties in this risotto also creates a deeper, more complex flavor and a gorgeous look, too! You can basically use any and all mushroom varieties in this wild mushroom risotto. Use what you can find; I promise the results won’t ever be boring!
You may have tasted mushroom risotto before, but I think you might not have enjoyed a risotto this… mushroomy yet. The genius technique in this recipe is to dry cook the mushrooms rather than cooking them in a pool of butter, the way it is usually done. Dry cooking means frying the mushrooms in a hot, naked pan—using no fat at all. This technique, which I borrowed from Jamie Oliver, is inspired by the way Japanese cook mushrooms on yakitori grills. Dry cooking allows the flavor of the mushrooms to concentrate and develop a lovely nuttiness. You taste the pure, straightforward flavor of wild mushrooms, not butter.
After the mushrooms are cooked, they are dressed with a drizzle of lemon juice and a pinch of salt and then tossed with a tumble of fresh herbs. This mushroom salad of sorts could be enjoyed as is or served on croutons as a cocktail bite, used as a topping for tartines or a pizza, or mixed with pasta for a quick dinner. But the way I prefer to serve them is on top of a cheesy, oozy risotto. The mushroom risotto broth is also infused with dry porcini mushrooms, which further enhances the incredibly earthy, comforting flavor of this dish. Although you could stir the mushrooms into the risotto right before serving, I prefer using them as a topping, which creates a striking presentation and allows you to craft perfect bites for yourself. I can hardly think of a more heart-warming fall and winter dish!
Helpful Tips for Making Wild Mushroom Risotto
Scrub mushrooms clean; don’t wash them: Delicate mushrooms absorb water incredibly quickly and will quickly turn to mush if showered or dunked in water. Some circumstances make it okay to quickly rinse mushrooms under running water, but this wild mushroom recipe won’t tolerate a drop of water: doing so would completely prevent the dry cooking process from succeeding. The mushrooms would release the water and boil in it, which would keep them from cooking properly. (Trust me on this; I gave it a try to make sure!) To clean up mushrooms, gently rub them with paper towels or a use a soft mushroom brush to remove dirt. This cleaning takes time, but the risotto is worth the extra effort.
Mix mushrooms up: I prefer using dry porcini mushrooms in the broth, but you can also substitute dried shiitake if that’s what you have on hand. As for the fresh mushrooms, don’t hesitate to mix any and all wild mushroom varieties you can lay your hands on: chanterelles, oysters, king trumpets, lobster, and morels are all excellent. You can also mix in more common varieties such as cremini, portobello, and shiitake.
Multi-task to shorten your way to that bowl of risotto:
Start by thoroughly cleaning and slicing the mushrooms before you do anything else because this is the lengthiest task of the dish;
Then infuse the porcini broth and prep the rest of the ingredients (slice the shallot, garlic, and celery; weigh the rice; grate the parmesan);
Start the risotto;
After you’ve started adding broth to the risotto, dry cook the mushrooms. This takes only 5 to 8 minutes, so when they’re done and dressed, the risotto will be close to being done;
Finish up the risotto, dress the mushrooms, and serve!
For the risotto: Pour the broth in a medium saucepan. Stir in the dried porcini mushrooms. Bring to a slow simmer, then lower the heat, cover and gently simmer for 5 minutes. Lower the heat to the minimum, then keep warm. (Keep the porcini in the broth: you will be gradually ladling the rehydrated mushrooms into the risotto along with the broth throughout the cooking process.)
In a large saute pan or a cast-iron braiser set over medium-low heat, melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the celery and shallot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the risotto rice and stir for 2 minutes, until the grains are translucent around the edges. Add the wine and stir vigorously while the wine is bubbling up, scraping down the bottom of the pan to loosen the caramelized bits. Simmer until the wine is fully absorbed. Add 1 ladleful of the hot porcini-infused broth and simmer, stirring from time to time, until the broth is almost completely absorbed. Continue adding broth, one ladleful at a time, allowing each ladle to be absorbed before adding more.
While the risotto is cooking, prepare the wild mushrooms: Set a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Heat for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms, stirring from time to time, until the mushrooms look toasty and “condensed”—they should look like denser, darker versions of themselves. (This should take about 7 to 8 minutes.) Transfer the mushrooms to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt, then drizzle with the lemon juice. Set aside while the risotto finishes cooking.
When there's about 1 ladleful of broth left, lower the heat to the minimum, then stir in the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Stir until the cheese is fully melted and incorporated. Stir in the remaining broth along with any and all bits of porcini left in the saucepan. The wild mushroom risotto should now be loose and super creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Cover and turn off the heat. The risotto can stand for about 5 minutes but should be served as soon as possible for the best texture.
SERVING: Quickly toss the fresh herbs with the wild mushrooms. Serve the risotto in warm bowls, then top with the wild mushrooms. Drizzle each serving with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with ground pepper, and serve immediately.
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