If you don’t like mushrooms and think that truffles smell like feet, you’ll probably want to click away from this post right now. This dish of Porcini-Truffle Risotto is not for you. Instead, it is for those who love the earthy, funky aromas and flavors of the funghi that live in the rich soil only to be revealed at that perfect moment of creation. I’m also posting this now, as another round of wintry weather is threatening to bring a chart-topping snowstorm our way, and this risotto is one of the most comforting ways I can think of to ride out the blizzard that is to come.
Fresh porcini mushrooms are even more rare to locate, at least I haven’t seen them for sale very often. I would see them during the Fall, briefly, very briefly, when I lived in Bologna in the main food market. A few places also served them with the local pasta during the season. Mostly, even in Italy, I used them in dried form, like I do here. The fresh ones had a much milder flavor and were super fragile to handle. Porcinis are one of the few food items that I think are even better in dried form than in fresh.
After living in Italy, I found truffle oil, which some chefs like and some think is a culinary scourge. While I admit that this condiment does get over-used and can completely kill a dish, I also think that it does have its time and place, sometimes. I’ve waited for the sales that O & Co. has to pick up truffle oil as well as jarred truffles, which I then make into a compound butter. The rice is Vialone Nano, one of several kinds that can be used for making risotto. That, I bought at the Mercato Notturno that the Greenmarket had a few months back. With these few ingredients, plus some homemade vegetable stock that I had in the freezer, I was set to go.
Prep Time: about 45 minutes to 1 hour (includes soaking time)
Serving Size: 4 main course or 6 primi piatti
1 packet Dried Porcini Mushrooms (about 20 grams)
1 tsp. Truffle Butter
1 tsp. Truffle Oil
1 medium Shallot, minced
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 c. Risotto Rice
2 1/2 c. Vegetable Stock
1/4 tsp. Black Pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp. Truffle Butter
1/4 c. Grana Padano, freshly grated
Truffle Oil for garnish
1 tsp. Chives, chopped
Place dried porcini mushrooms in a shallow bowl. Pour just enough boiling water over the mushrooms to cover them. Set aside and let the mushrooms re-hydrate while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Pour the vegetable stock into a small saucepan and let it come to a low boil.
In medium saucepan, melt the butter along with the truffle oil. Add the minced shallots and cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the shallots are soft and almost translucent. Season with a pinch of salt.
Stir in the rice. Make sure that each grain is thoroughly coated in the fat from the butter and oil. Let it cook for about a minute, but do not let it get browned.
Pour a ladleful of stock over the rice and stir to make sure that the liquid is incorporated throughout the risotto. Let the risotto cook over low heat, absorbing the stock. Once it looks like all the liquid is gone, add another ladleful of stock, taking care not to let the risotto lose so much liquid that it starts to stick to the pan.
While the risotto is cooking, remove the porcini mushrooms from their soaking liquid. Do not discard the liquid. Chop the porcinis until they are about the same size as the shallots. These to do not have to be even pieces, just not really giant-sized ones.
When the rice has just about doubled in size, and when, in tasting it, there’s a bit of give but still a chalky element to the risotto, add the porcini mushrooms along with any accumulated liquid from them. Do not add the soaking liquid. Stir to incorporate. Add the black pepper and 1/4 tsp. salt at this point as well. Continue stirring the risotto and adding more stock until the risotto is on the verge of al dente.
Just as the pasta gets to the al dente state, turn off the heat. The risotto will continue to cook a bit more even after the heat its off. Add the remaining butter plus the Grana Padano and stir them into the risotto. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
Immediately transfer the risotto to warmed plates. If desired, drizzle each portion with an extra bit of truffle oil. Sprinkle the chopped chives on top of the risotto. Serve right away.