One of many variations on a theme but significantly different enough to make me want to post the recipe.
While on Christmas vacation, Chris and I dined at a place called the Dock Cafe in Stillwater, Minnesota, overlooking the frozen St. Croix River. It was a total guess and a lucky one in the end. Good food and it was 1/2 price wine night. After much dithering, I went for the wild mushroom risotto with pancetta. It was very good and very filling- I couldn’t get through even half of it especially as I wanted to save a bit of room for dessert. The nice thing about this risotto was that it was creamy without a lot of added creamy fats like cream, butter and cheese.
I did not recreate that risotto for dinner tonight but I was inspired by it. I have made risotto with mushrooms on many previous occasions, hence the post title. I also have a nice mushroom noodle thing with ground meat that shares much in common with this dish.
Ingredients1 cup arborio rice 1/2 onion, finely chopped 3-4 slices bacon, sliced in to lardons (or pancetta, maybe?) 8-10 oz mushrooms, sliced- any kind is fine, I used shiitakes and crimini 1 stalk celery, finely chopped 2 cloves garlic, finely diced/pressed 2 tsp dried thyme 1/2 cup apple brandy, from Uncle John’s Winery in St. Johns 1/4 cup shredded cheese blend (parmesan, …) 3 cups broth or water or combination salt & pepper olive oil (maybe)
1. Saute bacon in large pan until crispy. Remove to paper towel-lined plate to drain. If necessary, drain some fat from pan leaving approximately 1 tablespoon.
2. Heat broth or water to simmering in a separate pot (or in the microwave like I did)
3. Add sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and cook over medium-high heat until thoroughly cooked down and most of liquid has come out of mushrooms. Remove from pan and cover to keep warm.
4. If necessary, add olive oil or some bacon fat back to pan. This step is only necessary if the pan is pretty dry.
5. Add onions, celery and garlic to pan, season with salt, pepper and thyme.. Cook until softened and onions have slighltly yellowed.
6. Add arborio rice and stir to combine. Add apple brandy (or other liquor/wine or even just broth or water) to deglaze pan. Scrape bottom of pan to pick up any tasty bits.
7. Once most of liquid from step 6 has been absorbed, begin adding 1/2 to 1 cup of broth or water to pan at a time, stirring continously until mostly absorbed then adding more liquid.
8. Continue adding broth or water until rice reaches desired doneness. Ideally this should be al dente- with a slight bite- but its mostly a matter of personal preference.
9. Return mushrooms and bacon pieces to pan along with 1 teaspoon thyme.10. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese blend. This step is also optional but as this is not a very brothy risotto, I think it adds a nice punch while keeping the mix somewhat creamy.
Okay, true confession time. I almost never stir my risotto constantly as per the usual instructions. I’m usually too busy with cooking the other parts of the meal or running in to the living room to check Facebook (or something else equally important). On the night I made this, I did stir pretty much continously.
I’m now a convert.
At least when I have the time. It cooked much faster and actually used less broth than usual.
- The apple brandy was a fall purchase during a visit for cider and donuts. We sampled the wines, learned that neither of us are big fruit wine people then decided to buy the brandy, mostly for cooking purposes. I was also envisioning making a sangria type thing in the future. I had only used it once before, for an apple dessert dish that did not turn out, through no fault of the brandy. Tonight, I used it because primarily because the bottle was already open and I didn’t want to open a bottle of white just for this dish.
- The apple flavor was pretty subtle in the end dish but on the whole, it felt more warm than when I make it with wine. A good pairing with the thyme and bacon.
- I updated my Facebook status during the cooking of this dish and received a comment from a friend to stop posting about food because I was making her hungry, even though she’d just ate. As it happens, she’s a vegetarian and wouldn’t be able to enjoy this particular dish but, her comment did make me think about how to adapt for the non-meat eaters. I am not a big fan of the fake bacon but if you are vegetarian and like it, then go for it. I would suggest replacing the bacon fat at the beginning with some butter though. Mushrooms cook up better in animal fats than vegetable fats like olive oil, in my opinion. Combining equal parts olive oil and butter would also probably work- I often go that route to saute onions when I’m making plain(er) risotto. If you are a vegan, you are on your own.