(Fancy) Mushroom Risotto
Risotto is one of those dishes that seems to be pretty intimidating to make because it looks fancy, but I can assure you that it isn’t. You just have to have enough patience to see it through. A super humble dish, very similar to Puerto Rican asopao, risotto is my way of treating myself to something super decadent and fancy-looking without breaking the bank.
For this recipe, I used what I had on hand in the pantry. Rice, onions, and chicken stock. I cheated on the store-bought stock since I had to toss what I had frozen after the hurricane a few months back. Nothing like a little splash of white wine that was almost empty in the fridge to balance out the risotto, and some frozen peas to finish for color.
If you want to make it vegetarian or vegan, you can definitely substitute vegetable stock in place of chicken stock and omit the pancetta, but for my meat-eating friends, use both. You’ll definitely want that extra depth of flavor to go with the mushrooms (which honestly, were the only things purchased at the store for this day)!
Like I said, you’ll need some patience for this recipe, so if you have at least an hour to spare and you’d like to unwind while making it, I suggest putting on your favorite playlist, pouring yourself a glass of wine, and stirring away. Let’s get cooking!
Cook time: 1 hour
1 small package pancetta
1/2 cup white mushrooms, small dice
3/4 cup shiitake mushrooms, small dice
1/2 yellow onion, small dice
2 tbsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp dried mushroom powder*
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp butter, unsalted
2 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine, like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio
3 cartons unsalted chicken stock, warmed
1/2 bag frozen sweet peas
Poached eggs (optional)
Note: if you can’t find mushroom powder, you can just omit it. It does add a nice punch of umami to the dish though. If it helps, I was able to find mine at a gourmet food store.
To start out, pour the chicken stock into a large saucepan and bring it up to a simmer over medium-low heat. Keep warm while you’re making everything else.
Next, a large heavy-bottomed pot, over medium heat, add the pancetta. Add a little bit of oil to help it cook along and stir occasionally until the fat is rendered out and the pieces of pancetta are crispy. That should take about 10 minutes. Then, add white mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, and onions.
Cook the pancetta, mushroom, and onion mixture until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms start to crisp up, about 7-8 minutes. Stir in the dried rosemary, garlic powder, and mushroom powder. Remember, don’t add the kosher salt until the mushrooms are nice and toasty to avoid them getting soggy (salt helps release liquid). Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper along the way.
Up next, add the butter and arborio rice. You’re going to want to stir the rice very well to make sure all of the grains are coated with that porky, mushroomy flavor. Ensuring the rice gets coated in fat also helps it get nice and creamy while it’s simmering in the broth. Stir, stir, and stir!
Once you start to smell the rice (it should smell nutty after about 5 minutes), hit the pan with the white wine and mix everything up to deglaze the pan. Pick up any toasty bits on the pan and make sure to stir well. Now, here is when things are going to take their time. The first step of making the risotto is to make sure that all of the liquid is soaked up by the rice before adding the next batch. So first, the wine has to be soaked up before adding the chicken stock. A good rule of thumb is being able to scrape your spoon across the bottom of the pot without anything falling into the space that’s left behind like below.
After the rice has soaked up the white wine, using a ladle, pour in a few spoonfuls of warm chicken stock to the rice and stir well. Let the rice get happy and bubble away while constantly stirring. This is the part when you get to just kinda go on autopilot and stir mindlessly until the stock has soaked up in the rice. Remember, same method as before. Wait until everything is soaked, and add another ladle or two. Each round of ladling in broth should be about 10-15 minutes.
Keep adding the stock in rounds until the rice is tender and creamy. All of the starch from the rice gets released with the liquid and makes it look like the photograph above. To note, the texture should be achieved by the time all of the stock is used up. You don’t want it to be too runny, like soup, but you want enough liquid with the rice for it to be thick and creamy (think of a nice bowl of oatmeal or grits).
Adjust any seasoning with kosher salt and pepper. Remember, you’ll probably add a bit more salt than you think you need because we’ve been adding unsalted stock this entire time to the original mixture.
Finally, a few minutes before serving, fold in the frozen peas. It’s okay to leave them frozen when folding them into the rice because the heat from the rice will warm them through. This also helps them stay crisp and preserve their bright green color.
To serve, you can pour up a big bowl of risotto and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese if you have it on hand or top the risotto with a nice, poached egg. I went with an egg this round for that extra kick of richness. That runny yolk with the creamy rice? Whew! Perfection.
Keep in mind, with any leftovers you may have, that all of the starch from the rice is released with the stirring, so it’s easy for the mushroom risotto to harden up when it starts cooling down. To bring it back to life, you can easily add a little bit of water or broth to loosen it up while reheating.