Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms

Today's culinary challenge comes from Marcella Hazan's book "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" which has probably done more to push me out of my food comfort zone than any cookbook has for awhile. I've dabbled of course with cooking, but somewhere along the line, you start to think "Oh, I don't do this" or "I don't do that." Like when I decided I didn't like pepper and found that given the opportunity, pepper could do some lovely things for dishes.

So I was actually looking forward to this recipe because I love mushrooms. At least I thought I did. Turned out that I have actually led a very mushroom sheltered life. Because by loving mushrooms, what I really meant was white button mushrooms or if I was feeling particularly daring, maybe portobello mushrooms.

Now time to be honest. I'm not sure if I really cared for this recipe because it's somewhat of a pain to make with the constant, constant stirring not to mention the whole process of adding broth, waiting for it to evaporate, and then adding more. I'll admit it. I like Rice a Roni and Uncle Ben's styles of rice more than Risotto because of the simplicity. But the flavor was not what I had been expecting. Turns out Porcini mushrooms have a very distinctive flavor that the jury is still debating on as to whether I'll like it. I'm thinking it might work better when paired with other flavors. Alone with the Risotto it just wasn't my cup of tea. Or cup of shrooms to be specific. Even with a lot of extra parmesan on top, it was not coming together for my tastebuds to accept.

Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms
from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan

5 cups homemade meat broth or 1 cup canned beef broth diluted with 4 cups water
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp onion chopped very fine
2 cups arborio or other imported italian risotto rice
1 oz/small packet dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted
Filtered water from the mushroom soak
Black Pepper
1/3 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
Additional cheese for table
Salt if required (which it was for me)

  1. Bring the broth to a very slow, steady simmer on a burner near where you'll be cooking the risotto. 
  2. Put 1 tbsp butter, the vegetable oil and the chopped onion in a broad, sturdy pot and turn the heat to medium high. Cook and stir onion until it becomes translucent, then add the rice. Stir quickly and thoroughly until the grains are coated well.
  3. Add 1/2 cup of simmering broth and cook rice until liquid is evaporated, stirring constantly so rice doesn't burn. Add more broth and continue to repeat. 
  4. When rice has cooked for 10 minutes, add the reconstituted mushrooms and 1/2 of the filtered water. Continue to stir and  when there is no more liquid, add more of the mushroom water, stirring and letting evaporate and adding more until you have used all of it. 
  5. Finish cooking rice with broth. If you have no more broth, use water. Cook rice until it is tender but firm to the bite with no more liquid remaining in the pot. 
  6. Remove from heat. Add a few grindings of pepper, the remaining 1 tbsp of butter and all the grated parmesan and stir thoroughly until the cheese melts and clings to the rice. Taste and correct for salt. Transfer to a platter and serve promptly with additional grates cheese of the side.


  1. I do think it takes a while to get used to porcini flavors. I can't remember if I liked them straight away but now I really do! If you want to try risotto again with a less distinct flavor of the mushrooms and don't want to go with the white ones, you can use chestnut mushrooms, which have more taste and are still fairly 'save'. I love risotto as it is so versatile and goes well with lots of different flavors. So don't give up on it yet!

  2. Porcini mushrooms do have a very strong and distinctive flavor. I happen to love all kinds of mushrooms, so I love porcini mushroom risotto. Maybe next time you make this (if there is a next time) try a blend of porcini, portobello, and shiitake. That way, the porcini flavor won't be so strong.

  3. Frog, okay...you've convinced me. I'll give it another chance to redeem itself. I still think your version looked tastier than mine :)

    Palidor...that's a good tip to try. I'll have to mix it up a little to see if it helps matters at all. I really thought I was a mushroom person based on just a few bland mushrooms...sigh. Time to expand the tastebuds.