“We should go home and eat something.”
“What should we eat?”
“We have those mushrooms…we could have rice.”
We are lucky enough to get beautiful mushrooms year-round from Hazel Dell just outside of town. They cultivate a variety of exotic-ish mushrooms - lion mane, cinnamon caps, consistently small and handsome shiitakes, oysters, trumpets, all kinds of things. We usually try to get a mixed pound or so when we see their stand at the market, and almost always end up eating them all in one go. Mushrooms are good.
We had a little salad of garden arugula with our rice - it’s getting really good about now. We dress it simply with lemon juice and olive oil, sometimes adding anchovy paste instead of salt. We put a little parm in this time, too.
Risotto with Mushrooms
Clean half a pound to a pound of mixed mushrooms. Chop very roughly and irregularly - the finished dish is much more fun with a variety of shapes and sizes and textures. Begin rendering a handful of diced pancetta in a skillet over slow heat. Put a quart of mild but well-flavored chicken stock on the heat and keep warm.
When the pancetta is about halfway cooked, add some chopped onion and garlic. Sweat it all together and then add some butter and all your chopped mushrooms. Add salt and fresh thyme; brown over medium heat briefly and then lower the heat and cover. The mushrooms can mostly sit at this point, slowly cooking in their own juices, with a stir every now and then.
Meanwhile, sweat another chopped onion and a clove of garlic in a big pot with plenty of olive oil. Turn up the heat and add a cup or so of arborio/carnaroli/vialone nano/your favorite short-grain rice and cook briefly, stirring, until each grain is coated with fat. Deglaze with a half cup of dry white wine. Begin adding hot stock a ladleful at a time - regulate the heat under the rice pot so added liquid comes to a simmer quickly. Stir, stir, stir, and add another ladle of stock when the previous addition is nearly absorbed (Sometimes I add as much as half the total amount of stock in one go at the beginning and stir just once in a while until most of that is gone. This is the lazy way to cook risotto, but it lets you get on with other things with minimal loss in the quality of the finished dish).
At the end of cooking - immediately after the last tiny hint of crunch is gone from the core of the rice grains - take the pot off the heat and stir in half of the mushrooms, a big handful of parm, and a little butter. Add a little more stock at this point if the cheese made things too thick. Plate with more mushrooms and fresh thyme.
This is a flexible thing. Sometimes we sauce fresh pasta with the mushrooms or put them over polenta. Sometimes I add lemon zest or pine nuts. Sometimes T adds cream or goat cheese to the mushrooms. Sometimes we use bacon instead of pancetta. As long as you have at least three kinds of mushrooms and they’re good, it can’t really go wrong.