risotto ai funghi

doesn’t the idea of finding your own mushrooms sound all appealing to you, too? i would so fancy to be some sort of a wild herbs and mushrooms witch, knowing everything about nature’s food offer. unfortunately, the only encounter i made with our own mushroom from the forest was when i was a kid. we picked a whole basket full of (rather unknown but pretty looking…) mushrooms. we decided it would be best to wait until the other day and bring them to a control office first before eating them. with the result that the next morning, there was nothing left of the mushrooms but a greenish, sticky looking sauce. the mushrooms we believed were edible vanished, sort of evaporated in the air. it was strongly obvious that these mushrooms were, in fact, not edible after all… 
so today, i guess i stick to buying mushrooms, or ordering them with my mom. this sunday we had guests (who brought along some great, great news, too). a good occasion for a classic dish like risotto ai funghi. 
risotto ai funghi
serves four
ingredients for the risotto:
2 cups of excellent italian risotto rice
1 to 2 liters of (home-made) vegetable broth*
2 cups of champagne or prosecco
1 white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
olive oil
3-4 tbsp. butter
1 cup parmiggiano reggiano, grated
1 pinch porcini salt* (i got mine at marinello in zurich)
1 pinch porcini powder
salt, pepper
1 organic lemon, zest and a little juice
thyme sprigs for serving
for the mushrooms:
2 kilos of mixed mushrooms**, cleaned and sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion
1 piece of peperoncino, minced
5 sprigs of thyme, picked
1 bunch of flat parsley, minced
olive oil
5-7 twigs thyme
porcini salt, fleur de sel
frehsly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable broth

prepare the broth and keep it on low heat, ready for the risotto cooking. in a large saucepan, heat some olive oil and a half of the butter. add the onion, clove and porcini powder and sweat briefly. add the rice and sweat and stir the rice, too, until every grain is lightly covered in the fat (i.e. until they are shiny). then deglaze with the champagne (i feel there can never really be enough of it in a risotto). from now on, add liquid (broth) whenever the liquid has evaporated, while constantly stirring and turning, on medium heat. you can prepare the risotto half through (the rice grains will be very al dente), cover it with enough liquid, close the lid and forget about it until 10 minutes before you want to serve it. simply reheat it the, add liquid, stir well until heated through. at the end of the cooking, add a bit more butter, the parmiggiano (be careful not to salt it too much before adding the parmiggiano, since it will add a lot to the saltiness), and season with salt and pepper. drizzle a few drops of lemon and a bit of the zest into the risotto (it adds freshness, my mom says).

the mushrooms have to be rosted separately. i’m sorry, it means a lot of work, yes. but you’ll find it’s worth it, later. since some mushrooms are full of water, they will not roast well. those mushrooms will turn out ‘sautéed’, meaning it’s more like a ragout, with some excess liquid. so, i begin with the biggest mushrooms: fry them in a very hot frying pan with some olive oil and a twig of thyme (you will have to take them out after each portion, so they won’t burn, and renew. throw them away after frying, it’s just for a nice perfume). fry every mushroom portion per portion, with patience, and place on the side. season with porcini salt and fleur de sel. at the end, heat a little more olive oil, sweat the onion and garlic cloves, peperoncino, parsley and thyme, for 1-2 minutes. add the broth, and now drizzle this mixture over your fryed mushrooms, so they won’t dry out and become too tough. the mushrooms can be prepared well ahead, too, up to here. then you’ll simply have to place them in the hot (not too hot) oven to warm them, and mix them under the finished risotto or place them on top of it.

drizzle an extra pinch of porcini salt (or normal fleur de sel) on every portion, add a thyme sprig for decoration and serve with additional parmiggiano reggiano on the side.

* re. broth: my mom taught me to do my own broth. for a long time, i never had the courage or the nerves to do that too, though. but in the end, it’s so very simple and it tastes much better than any bought one. i’ll use a few roots that i have at hand (parsnips, carrots), a handful of greens and / or a piece of leek, the stems of the herbs at hand (here it would be parsley and thyme), and also the mushroom ‘waste’ (i.e. the stems) that you didn’t use for frying. plus a few dried mushrooms, too, for extra flavour (i used shiitake, since they’re extra fragrant). chop everything, and cook for 10 minutes or so. then drain through a sieve and keep the broth ready in a saucepan on medium heat. salt lightly. the broth is ready for processing!

** re. mushrooms:  i’m not entirely sure which mushrooms i got here… sorry. sure sure there were king oyster mushrooms, a lot of conventional chanterelles, a few pleos, 1 or two porcini, a handful of black chanterelles, a variety with a beautiful purple stem and a white and brown, slim, stacked one i’ve never seen before.

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