ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

A locavore moves from Wisconsin to New Hampshire and rediscovers what "local" means.

Mushroom Week Day 3: Mushroom Risotto

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Mushroom Risotto (Cooks Illustrated Sept/Oct 2003)

Mushroom Risotto. Tastes better than it looks. Srsly. (Cooks Illustrated Sept/Oct 2003)
Arborio rice on the bottom. Japonica rice on the top. The arborio is whiter because it has more starch and less protein. Note that the shape is even stumpier than Japonica. (Japonica or "sushi rice" is basic Japanese short-grain rice.) Arborio rice on the bottom. Japonica rice on the top. The arborio is whiter because it has more starch and less protein. Note that the shape is even stumpier than Japonica. (Japonica or “sushi rice” is basic Japanese short-grain rice.)

Risotto is fancy Italian garbage rice. In general, risotto is made by toasting rice in butter, then cooking the rice slowly with little infusions of flavorful liquid while stirring, and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring, then add butter or cheese. Voila!

The key to risotto is the special arborio rice. The grains have two unique characteristics: they’re high in starch and shaped more like a football than a sausage. Because the arborio rice grains are stumpy, football-shapes, they are less likely to break while stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring. Since the grains have lots of starch, all of that stirring rubs the starch grains against each other, sloughing off starch on the outer layer of the cooking grain and mixing it into the interstitial cooking space, making the risotto creamy.

We didn’t just have risotto for dinner, we had mushroom risotto. Again, this is a Cooks Illustrated Recipe (Sept/Oct 2003). To get lots of mushroom flavor the recipe has two important elements. One, like yesterday’s mushroom ragu, the recipe uses rehydrated porcini mushrooms and their broth. Second, the recipe adds soy sauce, which has lots of “brown” or umami flavors. So, in the risotto is 1 oz reconstituted porcini mushrooms (about 1 cup when rehydrated and minced) plus the caps of crimini mushrooms, cut into quarters instead of slices, so they hold together during cooking. The dish is finished with salty parmesan cheese, some parsley for color, and a bit of butter. Took about an hour to prep and cook.

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