Mushroom Risotto with Parmesan Crisp (Risotto ai Funghi)

Mushroom Risotto with Parmesan Crisp (Risotto ai Funghi)

Risotto is a northern Italian rice dish whose popularity is not confined to Italy only. This hearty dish has taken the world by storm and today it is a staple in restaurants and home kitchens alike.

The ease of preparation and the versatility of risotto recipes are the two key qualities that make risotto a must in every cook’s repertoire. Authentic Italian-style risotto cooked the slow and painful way, but oh so worth it. Risotto rice does not have a flavour of its own, so the stock plays an important role while making a good risotto. The stock must be flavourful, and the acid balance is also important hence I always use a dash of white wine.

The best risotto I had was in Milan, in a restaurant in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. While we were in Milan, we had at least one of our daily meals at this restaurant and always devoured a different variety of Risotto. Their Milanese and Fungi risotto were the best I have ever eaten! That is when I fell in love with Risotto! Risotto cooking is not for everyone as it needs bundles of love, patience, and vigour.

Risotto has a reputation for being one of the harder-to-master Italian dishes. Overcook the rice, you quickly ruin it. Over stir, and you lose the creamy, rich texture risotto is renowned for. It is hard enough to cook rice, let alone perfect a one-pot wonder like risotto where just the right amount of creaminess is key to getting the rice to melt in your mouth like butter instead of melding into an oatmeal mush. I have had my share of failures but now I have a fool proof recipe for creamy luscious risotto. I would highly recommend reading the ‘Tips and Variations’ section if you are a risotto novice.

Mushroom risotto is creamy, and the mushroom lends a delicious umami flavour. This dish is completely and utterly mouth-wateringly delicious! I prefer using 2 variety of mushrooms – depending on whatever is available, however one variety works great too. I always find it is such a let-down whenever I order mushroom risotto in restaurants and I have to fish around desperately through piles of gluey rice to find a few piddly bits of mushrooms. Let me assure you there is no fishing expedition required with this Mushroom Risotto recipe!

Ingredients

For Risotto
1 cup risotto rice (250gm)
6 cups vegetable stock
500 grams sliced mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
1-2 finely chopped garlic clove
½ cup white wine
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon rosemary (optional)
1-2 tablespoons grated parmesan (optional- for serving)

For Parmesan Crisp
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon pepper/Italian herbs (optional)

Directions

Step-1

For Parmesan Crisp

Preheat the oven at 180C/fan160C/gas 4.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw approximately 2-3-inch diameter circles 2 inches apart. Spoon 1-1½ teaspoon grated parmesan cheese on prepared circles and spread slightly. Sprinkle the cheese mounds with Italian herbs/pepper(optional). Bake for 4 to 5 minutes or until crisp and golden. Keep an eye on them while baking as the crisps start to brown when they stop bubbling, so watch them carefully. Cool completely on baking sheet.

Step-2

Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and cook the mushrooms for 4-5 minutes until soft over medium-high heat.  Remove mushrooms and their liquid and set aside.

Step-3

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté the garlic and onions for 3-4 minute on low heat. You do not want them to crisp up or become overly dark in colour, just soft and translucent.

Step-4

Add the rice and stir to roast and coat the rice with oil for around 2 minutes.

When the rice has taken on a pale, golden colour, pour in the wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed.

In a separate pan warm up the vegetable stock over medium heat. Keep the stock warm during the whole risotto making process.

Step-5

Add ½ cup vegetable stock to the rice and stir until the stock is absorbed. Continue adding ½ cup stock at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed, and the rice is al dente. Keep the heat moderate, so that it bubbles in a lively but not aggressive way. It should take around 18 – 20 minutes for rice to cook through.

Step-6

Stir in the cooked mushrooms with its liquid, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Gently lift the cooled parmesan cracker.

Serve the mushroom risotto with some grated parmesan and parmesan cracker.

Tips & Variations

  1. Choosing the right rice is especially important while making risotto. You should opt for the rice types that absorb liquids and releases starch. For a creamier consistency go for the medium or short grain since these types of rice are stickier than the long grain ones. Some popular varieties are Arborio, Carnaroli, Maratelli and Vialone Nano. I use Carnaroli at home as I prefer the taste of the rice.
  2. In most rice dishes rice is washed before cooking. However, just like sushi, risotto needs to retain its sticky consistency. Washing the rice strips off the starch that is the key element to maintaining that classic creamy texture hence do not wash the risotto rice.
  3. One of the surest ways to ruin risotto is overcooking. Slowly pour in stock while the risotto cooks at a medium simmer, pausing until each portion of the liquid has been absorbed before adding more.
  4. Do not underestimate how much stock you need. Keep in mind a ratio of one cup of rice to 3 cups of stock, adding in a touch more stock to achieve that creamy, silky consistency if you wind up cooking your rice a bit too long. But remember, be safe and keep a bit more stock than the ratio calls for.
  5. Risotto should not take more than 20 minutes to cook to reach that ideal al dente texture that is just firm enough in the center without giving it a playdough-like mouldable quality.
  6. Some people recommend continuously stirring the risotto, but I do not stress about constantly stirring risotto. I recommend stirring it once every 30 seconds. Over stirring will break the rice grains, and the rice will not absorb the liquid properly. Cooking the risotto at the right temperature (a medium bubble) will continue to move on its own, so you only need to stir to ensure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  7. Do not ever use cold stock. Bring the stock to a boil and then turn the heat down to low.
  8. Do not start adding stock before sweating your onions and toasting your rice.
  9. Do spend about 5 minutes letting your onions become translucent and your rice become toasted.
  10. Risotto is an Italian dish, so using olive oil is the best way to go about However, if you do not have it at hand, you can always use butter or a combination of oil and butter.
  11. One of risottos signature ingredient is white wine as it brings flavour and a bit of acidity to the dish, which can help balance out its inherent richness. You can make the risotto without it by adding a squeeze of lemon juice or a touch of white or red wine vinegar at any point while you are stirring in the stock.
  12. Risotto can be made in just about any flavour imaginable – mushroom risotto is a classic, but just about any other vegetable will work too. Carrot risotto, tomato risotto, pea risotto.
  13. I prefer using 2 types of mushrooms while making risotto as I like the different flavours each mushroom brings. So, feel free to use one or combination of 2 varieties.

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