I often find the simplest things, made well, to be the most appealing. This is not to down play complexity; but I find that by using wonderful ingredients and highlighting their inherent complexity yields delicious results. Risotto falls into this simple/complex category for me. It is comfort food at its finest. Executed properly, it is sublime. I have been making risotto since I was about fifteen years old, when we bought my mom a risotto cookbook for Christmas one year. I fell in love with both Italian food and cooking challenges at an early age, and over time perfected my risotto technique. I love different kinds of risotto - leek and spring pea; butternut squash; sausage and mushroom; asparagus and lemon; the list really goes on - but time and again, I turn to my classic, a simple mushroom risotto.
And the nice thing about this is you can play with different types of mushrooms (shitake, chanterelle, cremini, porcini) to achieve varying levels of, shall we say, mushroomy-ness. I would steer clear of using white button mushrooms in this dish, as they have very little flavor of their own. For this version, I used both creminis and reconstituted dried porcinis (soak them in boiling water for about fifteen minutes, and drain, as there may be some silt. You can either reserve the soaking liquid or use a few teaspoons to intensify your risotto!)
In this dish, you can very easily omit the goat cheese, but it adds a somewhat decadent creaminess. And I like the addition of lemon zest, as it serves to brighten up the flavors and cuts the richness a bit!
Makes approx. 4 servings
3-4 cups vegetable stock (I prefer homemade)
1 sprig of thyme, plus extra for garnish
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups arborio or carnaroli rice
7 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus extra for garnish
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1 tbsp lemon zest
1. Bring vegetable stock with spring of time to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
2. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to a 4-5 quart saucepan (or a risotto pan, if you have one). Once oil shimmers, and onion and saute until softened and golden, 5 to 7 minutes.
3. add rice, stir to coat/toast.
4. add white wine, cook until evaporated (and stirring all the while)
5. begin to add broth by the ladle, making sure all liquid has before adding more. the risotto should be stirred constantly to prevent sticking. about halfway through, add the sliced mushrooms. continue until all stock is absorbed, and rice is tender (you can check by sampling).
6. remove from heat, add butter, cheese and lemon zest, stirring to combine.
7. serve, garnished with extra parmesan, crumbled goat cheese, and a few thyme leaves.