Sunday, September 14, 2008
The success of a good Italian risotto depends on both the quality of the rice used and the technique. Add the stock gradually and stir constantly to coax a creamy texture from the starch grains. This variation on the classic Risotto alla Milanese includes saffron, porcini mushrooms and Parmesan cheese. Recipe serves 4.
2 tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms
2/3 cup warm water
4 cups vegetable stock
Generous pinch of saffron strands
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 3/4 cups Arborio or similar rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pink and yellow oyster mushrooms, to serve (optional)
1. Put the dried porcini in a bowl and pour over the warm water. Leave the mushrooms to soak for 20 minutes, then lift out with a slotted spoon. Filter the soaking water through a layer of kitchen paper in a sieve, then place it in a saucepan with the stock. Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer.
2. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the hot stock into a cup and stir in the saffron strands. Set aside. Finely chop the porcini. Heat the oil in a separate pan and lightly saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Gradually add the rice, stirring to coat the grains in oil. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Pour in the white wine. Cook, stirring, until it has been absorbed, then ladle in a quarter of the stock. Cook, stirring, until the stock has been absorbed. Gradually add the remaining stock, a little at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding more, and stirring constantly.
4. After about 20 minutes, when all the stock has been absorbed and the rice is cooked but still has a "bite", stir in the butter, saffron water (with the strands) and half the Parmesan. Serve, sprinkled with the remaining Parmesan. Garnish with pink and yellow oyster mushrooms, if you like.
Variations: There are endless variations on this delectable dish. The proportion of stock to rice, onions, garlic and butter must remain constant but you can ring the changes with the flavorings and cheese.