Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom Risotto
Mushroom Risotto

Let’s talk about how to make mushroom risotto. Risotto, a glorious amalgamation of rice, seasonings, cheese, and broth, is a staple dish in the cuisine of northern Italy. Pasta reigns the southern areas of Italy, with their sunny, grassy hills that are tailor-made for wheat production. But in the north, the flat lands, abundant water, and relatively high humidity make it a perfect region for rice cultivation; in some areas of the north, rice is a more important starch than pasta.

The first step to great risotto is choosing the right rice, and that rice should have a high starch content. Because starch is so important to a successful risotto, you should never rinse the rice before cooking it. Risotto is a chemistry experiment; with the careful application of heat and liquid, the starches locked in the rice are teased out to mingle with the rest of the contents in the pan—the onions, the wine, the broth. The starch morphs into a creamy not-quite-sauce that envelops the rice in a savory cloud, made even more creamy by a final mount of butter and a good shake or five of freshly-grated parmesan cheese.

Because risotto is so starchy and creamy, you need some kind of acid to cut through the fat and create balance. Wine is typically used to do that, after the rice has sautéed in onions and oil, and before the broth is added. We used sake here, which also added depth and sweetness, but white wine is traditional. Look for something that suits your palate. Some people prefer the bone-dry minerality of an orvieto, but others like the gentler, more welcoming pinot grigio. If you don’t want to use wine, leave it out. Add the acidity at the end of cooking with a squeeze of lemon juice, instead. To make the broth, we mixed our Vegetable Stock Powder with water, which gives a deeply herbaceous flavor with an extra, cheese-like tang from nutritional yeast. Broth should be added incrementally, in half-cup ladles-full, to get nice, plump grains of rice. And the broth should be hot and kept at a simmer during the cooking process; cold broth in a hot pan lowers the temperature of everything and alters the chemistry at work. You want the rice to be al dente, like a pasta would, with a toothsome quality and great chew. Cook until the rice goes from bright white to shiny and looks almost translucent; you may see a little nub of white in the center. Tasting is the best way to test for doneness, but there are worse things to do. You may have some extra broth left over, but that's fine. Let it cool and store it for later use. It's better to heat too much broth for this recipe than too little.

We used a combination of oyster, shiitake, and button mushrooms for this dish, which we sauteed in our Organic Flippin’ the Bird seasoning blend. This blend has a great range—depth from chile peppers, bright pops of celery seed that lighten it up, and some Mediterranean herbs that are at home in just about any Italian dish. You can use any mushroom you like, but bear in mind that portobellos will darken the dish. And be picky about your parmesan. Now is the time to leave behind the convenience-based shaker can in the fridge, which is too salty and will give your risotto a grainy texture, and pick up a good cheese that you can grate and will melt in. Top risotto with more mushrooms and butter, and garnish with chives or parsley. Serve this with a steaming piece of crusty bread and a simple green salad, and go on a mental vacation to a café in a piazza in Milan.

 Print Recipe

  • 5 cups water
  • 4 Tablespoons Vegetable Stock Powder
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 8 oz assorted mushrooms, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Organic Flippin The Bird
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup sake or dry white wine
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1. Bring water to a boil then stir in Vegetable Stock Powder and reduce heat to medium low. Keep this vegetable stock over heat while making risotto.

2. Roughly chop about ¾ of the mushrooms and saute with 1 Tablespoon butter, 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 tbsp Organic Flippin’ the Bird seasoning, 2 minced garlic cloves, and salt to taste. Once the mushrooms are nicely browned turn off heat and reserve for serving the risotto.

3. In a wide-bottom skillet heat 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Saute shallot briefly until it turns translucent but not brown. Add the remaining mushrooms, which have been finely chopped, and the rice. Stir to coat the rice and cook for approximately 5 minutes, while stirring gently.

4. Add sake and cook until evaporated.

5. Gradually add vegetable stock; start with 1 cup stock and the remaining Tablespoon Flipping the Bird seasoning. Gently stir while adding ½ cup vegetable stock at a time. The rice should absorb most of the stock prior to adding each consecutive ½ cup. Taste the risotto after 4 cups of the stock has been added. The rice should be just a little bit firm but mostly soft. If the rice is still too firm , continue the process until it is done.

6. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining butter, parmesan, and reserved mushrooms.