Risotto ai Funghi Selvatici

Wild-Mushroom Risotto

Risotto ai Funghi Selvatici

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Simon Peterson

Or wild-mushroom risotto, 'round these parts.  

The wild morels and chanterelles you collect this spring shine in a risotto, as they complement the rich, creamy flavor with a robust, nutty taste. Chanterelles add a distinct apricot-like odor and flavor, while morels tend to add a tinge of smokiness. Chanterelles can become chewy once dried and reconstituted, so I prefer to use them fresh, whereas previously dried morels are ideal due to their delicate nature when fresh. When cooking risotto, it’s imperative to use medium-grain rice. Arborio rice is the best-known and easiest to find, but Carnaroli and Vialone Nano are of even better quality—or substitute the quick-cooking Baldo. For the most flavor, use a homemade stock. Go for the cheapest bottle of Sauvignon blanc you can find, and a sharp, smoked cheese. I also like to include fresh herbs, which add to a particular risotto’s je ne sais quoi.

1 cup risotto rice (e.g., arborio)
1 oz. dried morel mushrooms
3 cups chicken stock (homemade, if possible)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup white wine (optional—can be replaced with extra broth)
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium-large cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup shallots, finely minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped chives, green onions, or other herbs for garnish (optional) 

Serves: 2-4 as main; 4-6 as side
Time: 90 minutes 

Combine dried morels and cold chicken stock in a medium pot. Let sit for 20-30 minutes until morels are fully softened. Remove morels and squeeze out excess liquid, then cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put the stock over medium heat and keep it on the back burner—literally and figuratively—turning it to low once the liquid is hot. 

While the stock is heating, in a large skillet or Dutch oven over low heat, simmer the garlic and shallots in olive oil for five minutes until translucent, making sure not to brown them, then add the morels, fresh parsley, fresh basil, and simmer for a couple minutes before adding the milk. After the shrooms and herbs have cooked in the milk for a few minutes, slowly pour in the wine while stirring constantly. When the wine has melded into the sauce, increase the heat to medium-low, stir in the rice and continue to stir every 30-60 seconds until the liquid is cooked into the rice and there is no reservoir in the bottom of the pan. Now start adding the hot chicken stock, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring and cooking it down repeatedly for 30-45 minutes until the rice is tender and creamy. Lastly, turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper, stir in the cheese and chives, then let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Tip: additional freshly grated cheese is something that will be desired by most!

Simon Peeeeeeterson (smug pronunciation) spends most of his summer evenings cooking extraordinary meals for custom fly-fishing trips at Montana Angler’s Boulder River Outpost, and prepares gourmet, riverside delights for trips down the Yellowstone and Smith rivers.

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