Creamy Wild Mushroom Risotto

More mushrooms. I think its called “immersion therapy”. The more I expose mushrooms to my kitchen, the more I can appreciate them for more than the funny looking fungus that they are.  Every time I chop up mushrooms I remember making mushroom duxelles and cream of mushroom soup at my alma mater, Arizona Culinary Institute. I have some incredibly fond memories from school, though almost none as dear to me as getting grief from Chef Wolf about my loathe of mushrooms, tarragon and putting ketchup on everything. I’ve never had an instructor who was so damn approachable and REAL! Have you ever sang songs from the South Park movie with your teacher while roasted peppers over a flame? Have you ever quoted Team America or Anchorman with someone teaching you how to fabricate fish? I have. And to top it all off, I even got to sing Phantom of the Opera songs with Laz at minimal annoyance to Chef Wolf. He always told me he would convert me to mushroom dish acceptance and a love of tarragon. He accomplished 50% of that statement. I still hate tarragon.

Risotto is something I really enjoy making. Scratch that- I love making it. Some people find massages or hiking to be their main go to for relaxing. I make risotto. There is just something about slowly stirring the arborio rice with hot stock and watching it release its starchy goodness to become a dish barely resembling rice. Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice. It is grown in the Po Valley and gets its name from the town Arborio in the region. The Po Valley is also known for raising fruits, sugar beets and livestock.  We are fans of this area of Italy, yes? Yes.

Cooking the rice takes longer than the mushrooms, but for the sake of not drying out the risotto, I make the mushrooms first. They are fine to let sit on low while the risotto is cooking. For the mushrooms, I kept it simple and ,s, butter, S&P, white wine vinegar- just a splash, and fresh thyme at the end. Let these beauties simmer down to au sec, almost dry, and put them aside *covered!!* until the risotto is almost done. Before you deliver your last ladle of hot stock and add the cheese to the risotto, add the mushrooms. Obviously, each dish has its own flavor at this point, so it is important to know how they blend at this stage, eliminating a need to rebuild flavors at the end. Stir, stir, gently!

Taste!

Add the cheese (good mascarpone and freshly grated parmesan). If your pan is giving you resistance and your heavenly dish is gunky and heavy, loosen it up with a little bit more stock. Time and rest will bring it back together, so it is better to err on the “too loose” side. Taste again.

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This can be served as an entire meal by adding a salad or soup and a chunk of good bread. I included it as a side for another dish, but it was SUCH the show stealer that I will rethink that decision the next time I make it.

Stop by to see what fate awaits the leftovers…

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Cheesey Pleasey Pt 2

The pasta was amazing. It was  wonderful the day of, reheated well (twice) and eaten cold the next day. The veggies were incredibly fresh, organic and as local as possible. Behold! The asparagus, the gorgeous kale with the whites of a green onion sliced on top and the cubed zucchini. Holy green overload, Batman! Check out that energy waiting to happen. There. Don’t you feel better about the pasta and the sexy cheese to come?? Yeah. You’re welcome. Guilt trips are passe.

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Let’s skip the boring part about boiling pasta in salted water, cooking to al dente. Your know that. High fives for assumed intelligence! I’m full of the “feel goods” today. Maybe its the rain? For the record the rain hasn’t happened yet. This is Arizona, after all, and this state loves nothing more than teasing me with the prospect of rain. The clouds. The wind. The severely lower temperatures. This should be rain, right? We shall see… This WOULD happen the weekend we go camping. I should know better. It rains on my birthday every year. That is not me being dramatic or exaggerating at all. I am absolutely serious about this weather fact. I’m more accurate than any forecaster, sans degree.

But I’m more than off topic.

While the pasta is cooking and your kale is wilting, make a roux using equal parts high quality, unsalted butter and flour. Let the flour cook out completely, so that your sauce is the best it can be. Floury cheesy is not part of pleasey. When you can no longer smell the flour, it is time to add cream. Slowly pour while whisking out any clumps. I used 2 cups to cover a pound. When the cream is all in, throw in some whole thyme, stems and all. These will be retrieved when the sauce is done thickening, about 5 minutes. Oh and be seasoning the whole time. Using unsalted butter lets you have total control of the flavor, but if youre all about avoiding the facts of how much salt it takes to make something taste good, go ahead and use the presalted. I hate to break it to you, but youre still going to add salt. White pepper is the sneaky, fast flavor, but I prefer the black, rustic look. Season til yums.

Pull the sauce off of the heat and grate some amazing Parmesan cheese into the sauce. Go nuts. Stir, stir, stirrr….and if you’re me then you’re thinking “oh yeah, it can take more cheese…” grate, grate, grate… At the end of this sauce journey, you should be left with a smooth, sexy, shiny cheese sauce. Pour this over your sauteed veggies, mixing well. And then bring the pasta to the party.

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Enjoy.