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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

risotto with mushrooms and leeks

it's been a while since i cooked risotto. i used to make it all the time, but i never really could get the texture exactly right, and eventually i moved the dish out of the rotation in favor of other techniques that weren't so tricky. but when i finally got my hands on some leeks at the farmers market recently (they're almost always sold out by the time i arrive), i couldn't shake the idea of a leek risotto. epicurious featured a recipe from le pigeon, a celebrated portland restaurant that i sadly never made it to when we were living there... the recipe for risotto with leeks, shiitake mushrooms, and truffles sounded too good not to try. 

the recipe begins with halved and thinly-sliced leeks. click here for a handy guide on prepping and cleaning leeks.

the leeks are cooked in heavy whipping cream until the mixture is nice and thick, and the leeks are tender.

le pigeon's recipe calls for shiitake mushrooms and truffles. i, having neither on hand, substituted dried porcinis that were reconstituted by soaking in boiling water for 20 minutes, drained, and added to the roasting onions for the last 15 minutes of their 45 minute cooking time. (if i make this again, i'll try it with fresh shiitakes or creminis. the porcinis didn't quite match the dish.)

now the real work begins. arborio rice is sauted in butter, then white wine, then 4-5 cups of simmering chicken or vegetable stock are added, one ladle-full at a time. most recipes call for constant stirring during this step, but i do cover the pan and step away to do something else occasionally. don't go far, though-- the rice absorbs the stock in about 2-4 minutes, and then it's time for more. 

the rice is done when it is tender, but still a little al dente, and creamy, but not gummy. it should be a bit loose, not clumpy. 

now, the leeks and cream are stirred into the rice, along with 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, and a pat of butter. season with salt and pepper. top with mushroom and onion mixture, or stir it all together. 

as i said, i will save the porcinis for another dish next time. fresh shiitakes or creminis would be better in this one. between the creamy rice, and the creamy leeks, the dish was creamy creaminess, and the porcinis were too pungent and out of place. their aroma reminds me of a cross between a super sharp pecorino cheese and the ocean-- just too much for the other flavors.

it is entirely too easy to overcook risotto, and even if you yank it off the heat at just the right time, it's only a matter of minutes before the rice has continued to cook and taken your dish from "yay!" to "damn, i overcooked it again." that's why i think everyone who makes risotto at home should be willing to adjust their standards for the dish-- it still tastes good, even if tom and padma would complain. give it a try!

dried porcinis: foraged and found edibles 

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