When we were in Italy, my friend Cherrye’s husband, Peppe, made us salmon risotto one night. It was so heavenly, and I made sure to pay careful attention to his cooking methods so I could make my own risotto at home.
Of course, several weeks have passed, and admittedly that night we drank copious amounts of cheap italian wine and home-made limoncello, so I found a recipe that seemed similar to use as a guide. You can check it out here.
You can make almost any kind of risotto using this general recipe. Just use a different broth and substitute vegetables or meat for the mushrooms. It would be easy.
First, prepare the broth. I made 6 cups of vegetable broth. But you could use chicken, beef or mushroom. Taste the broth to make sure it has good flavor. The first rule Peppe taught us is that each part of the risotto must taste good on its own. Put the broth aside, keeping it on low heat.
Then start the base for the risotto. Heat your pan up to medium heat. Add one tablespoon of butter to a big pan. Then add about half an onion, diced. Cook the onion until it is soft but not quite caramelized (but I bet if you did caramelize it, it would taste good too).
In a separate pan, add one tablespoon of butter, and a tablespoon of minced garlic. Then add your chopped mushrooms. I used a whole pound, but honestly half a pound would have been good too. I did half a pound of sliced white mushrooms and half a pound of chopped Portobello mushrooms. After the mushrooms start cooking down, taste them you can add another tablespoon of butter if you want. Don’t forget, the mushrooms should be delicious enough to eat on their own. Here’s a blurry shot of the onions and mushrooms starting to cook.
Then when the onions are cooked how you like them, add in your arborio rice. I used 1 and 1/2 cups. Stir around until the rice starts to get a little translucent. Then add in half a cup of white wine and stir until the liquid is almost absorbed.
Meanwhile don’t forget to keep an eye on the mushrooms. You can even add in half a cup of white wine to them too.
Don’t go to far away from the risotto. Now is the labor intensive part. Add a ladle full of the broth into the rice and start stirring until most of the liquid has been absorbed. It’ll look kind of like this. You can see a little bit of liquid still, but it’s not runny.
Then add another ladle full of broth to the rice. Same story, keep stirring until mostly absorbed. Then add another ladle. You’ll keep doing this using most of the broth.
When the risotto has more than doubled in size, and seems like it’s almost done, taste it to see if it’s ready. When it’s done, it should be al dente and have a little texture to it, but it shouldn’t be crunchy. If it’s just a little under cooked you’ll start getting ready to add the mushrooms in.
I drained the liquid off the mushrooms but you could add it all in to the risotto if you wanted. (It was all black and gross looking if you ask me.)
Dump the mushrooms in and add another ladle of broth. This will probably be your last ladle (there may be a little broth still left, that’s ok as long as your risotto isn’t crunchy). Stir until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Taste everything and see if you need to add salt or anything.
You can turn the heat down and step away for just a minute now. Grate up about 1/3 cup of pecorino romano cheese, toss it in the pan and stir well. Last, add one tablespoon of butter and stir it in and taste. The butter adds richness, so if you think it could be a little more rich, add one more tablespoon. If you aren’t sure, just go ahead and add it. You won’t regret it.
And now you’re ready to enjoy.
Yes, it was a somewhat labor intensive process, but honestly, the cooking part wasn’t too bad. I probably took more time cleaning and cutting the mushrooms than I did getting the onions, mushrooms and rice started cooking. If I had to guess, I think I got everything done in just over an hour. Not too bad if you ask me. Even Taylor (who isn’t a major mushroom fan) thought it was delicious. And ate leftovers for lunch the next day.