Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wild Mushroom Risotto

I have made this dish (or some variation) about 10 times in the last month, and every time it has been amazing. This is due in large part to the fact that the Pacific North West has an abundance of edible wild mushrooms. From the impressive looking Lion's Mane to the improbable Chicken of the Woods (it tastes like chicken, really), the mushrooms up here are really something else. Many delicious species grow on decaying hardwoods, and the climate up here is perfect for both hardwood trees and mushrooms.

Risotto is a little scary to some because it is easy to burn. But once you get the hang of it, it is an excellent base for improvisation. You can throw in seafood or mushrooms, some chopped vegetables, or you can take it in new directions with spices. If you cook a topping or additive separately, it can be combined at the end. It is basically a rich and creamy base for whatever flavor you want to support. The signature texture breaks down when reheated, but it is still delicious, and in my opinion makes excellent leftovers when eaten within a few days. It takes about 30 minutes all told, but 15-20 minutes of that time requires constant attention. So it can be made quickly, but do not plan on multitasking.

Wild Mushroom Risotto:

1 1/2 Cups Risotto Rice:

It is essential that you use the correct rice. Only short, fat grains will do. I always use Arborio, but Carnaroli (which I have never seen in the grocery store) is apparently traditional. These particular types of rice are more starchy, and break down differently from other varieties.

4 Cups Stock:

This is where you get most of the flavor (aside from the fatty creaminess of the butter). Chicken stock is most common, but fish or vegetable stock is a perfectly acceptable substitution depending on the other ingredients. I do not recommend mushroom stock for wild mushroom risotto, actually, because the flavors might compete (the stock will probably be made with very different mushrooms). Use a vegetable or chicken stock instead. Whatever the flavor, use the best stock you can find, or better yet stock that you made yourself. Since this is the flavor base, make it a good one. Using a vegetable stock makes this a vegetarian recipe.

Up to 2 cups chopped Mushrooms:

Any variety will do, but some kind of fresh wild mushroom is best. I like chanterelles a lot, but last time I used Fried Chicken Mushrooms (which don't taste like fried chicken, really). You can also use dried mushrooms, which should be refreshed in a little water. If you do this, you can mix the re hydrating liquid with the stock to retain all of the flavor.

1/2 cup white wine
2 shallots (or 1 onion)
2-4 cloves Garlic (optional)
1 tbsp. olive oil
5 tbsp. butter.
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Get all of the ingredients ready and close at hand before you start cooking. Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms, dice the shallots (and garlic) finely, put the stock in a small sauce pot, the olive oil and half of the butter in a large skillet. Have the wine measured and in reach. Grate the required amount of cheese and keep nearby. When everything is prepped, measured and handy, you are ready to get started. This is important, because once the rice is in the pan, you cannot walk away from it until it is almost finished.

Bring the stock to a boil, then turn down the heat to a low simmer, and keep it there. Heat the skillet until butter melts and blends with olive oil, then add shallots (and garlic). When shallots are softened (do not brown) add the rice and stir to coat the grains completely with fat.

Stirring constantly, add the wine, and simmer until completely absorbed. Repeat this process with the stock one ladle full at a time (still stirring constantly) until all of the stock is gone. If you stop stirring or walk away to do something else at this point, the liquid could evaporate very quickly and the rice could burn.

Add the mushrooms about 5 minutes before the risotto is done (that is, when you are ~2/3 of the way through the stock). Once all of the stock is absorbed, remove from the heat completely. At this point, dice the remaining butter and add it a few cubes at a time, stirring until it is melted. Then add the Parmesan cheese, again stirring until completely melted. Season with salt and pepper (white if you have it) to taste. Ideally, serve immediately. Otherwise, keep covered and serve within 20 minutes. Avoid reheating as this will cause the oil to separate, damaging the presentation (but not really the flavor).


For a vegan risotto, use Earth Balance instead of butter. Earth Balance is the only butter replacement that tastes almost as good and acts similar in cooking, and it also has no trans fat or hydrogenated oil. I have made risotto with this product a few times, and it works very well.

For a seafood risotto, use fish stock (if you can find it) or vegetable stock, and add shrimp at the same time as you would the mushrooms. If you are adding other seafood, consider cooking it separately and combining it right before serving, or using the risotto as a bed.

Other soft vegetables that can be eaten raw should be added at the same time as the mushrooms. Hard vegetables that need more cooking (tubers, rough greens, etc.) and meat should be cooked separately and combined right before serving. All together, I would not add much more than 2 cups of other ingredients per 1 and 1/2 cups (raw) rice.

Pictures to come soon, bon appetit. Scratch that, I just checked and I don't have any pictures of that one. I don't know what I was thinking. But here's a link!

Risotto on Foodista


  1. Can't wait to see the photos! I'm usually a fan of box-mix risotto (Trader Joe's has a great wild mushroom one) when it comes to preparing it myself, because I have always been too intimidated to make it myself. I'll have to try this recipe! How many servings does it make?

  2. About four servings as a main course, maybe six as a side dish.