Mushroom Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes

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I hope everyone is enjoying the beginning of October! The temperature is starting to drop, which makes me worry a little for my seedlings in the garden, but also makes me so happy because Autumn is my favorite season!  I love the ability to layer clothes and dress in comfy sweaters.  I love all those fall flavors and dishes: pumpkin and squash, apples, pears, brussels sprouts, spices, thick stews and gravies, and all of those stick-to-your-ribs and warm-your-bones types of food.  I love that everything gets a little more cozy.  Summer is for going everywhere, traveling, eating at restaurants, on patios, going out with friends, and all that.  I think that Fall finds us at home more, but also in homes more, whether we are visiting friends or having them over at our place.  And since I love feeding people and love staying home, this makes this season pretty ideal.

At the top of my cozy, crave-able dinners list is risotto.  It’s always my back-up, since the base can be made with pantry staples, so it is great for days when I didn’t plan dinner or when my other plans are foiled for one reason or another.  Then I can dig out some arborio rice, some broth, an onion, and a bit of cheese for a risotto base that can be doctored up in endless ways!  Risotto also has the same sort of creamy, starchy goodness as say…macaroni and cheese, but it doesn’t leave me feeling quite as weighed down after eating it.  Plus, I am pretty particular about my mac and cheese, so–even with the required stirring–risotto is way easier for me to get on the plate.  And, as an added bonus: leftover risotto is perfect for making arancini!  This is another favorite that I will have to post soon, but the leftover risotto is wrapped around cheese, then breaded and fried or baked to crispy, cheesy, dip-able perfection!  Easily one of the best leftover dishes, ever.

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This risotto, as I mentioned, comes from the same base as I’ve posted before.  I’ve come a long way from my first frightened attempt at risotto.  I am nearly on auto-pilot nowadays.  When I got shiitake mushrooms in our Hungry Harvest Box (still totally in love, BTW), I knew I wanted to make them into a risotto.  Since M isn’t too keen on mushrooms, he is usually a good sport when I ‘hide’ them in our dishes.  But I wanted these to be the star of the dish.  Luckily, he goes off with friends one night a week, which is quickly becoming my time to indulge in all dishes mushroom and/or shrimp.  So this risotto was thrown together on a Tuesday, after my late shift at work.  After 30 minutes stirring at a toasty stove, I had my reward!  I decided to throw in these tomatoes at the last minute, when I realized that they needed to be used up, and I’m so glad that I did.  The mild acidity of the roasted tomatoes is the perfect compliment to the creamy risotto.  While it may not be much to look at, it was delicious! Enjoy!

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Mushroom Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 30-40 minutes

  • 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 3 small-medium shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 c. arborio rice
  • 1/4 c. white wine*
  • 4 c. broth (chicken, beef, veggie)
  • 8 oz mixed mushrooms**
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 stalk fresh rosemary
  • 10-12 stems of thyme
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream or half & half
  • 1/4 c. parmesan, grated
  • 1 pint small tomatoes (cherry, grape, cabernet, etc)

*If you want to avoid alcohol entirely, you can replace the wine with an equal amount of broth + a splash of vinegar.

**I used equal parts button and shiitake mushrooms.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Toss the pint of tomatoes with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, until well coated.  Pour the tomatoes onto the baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Once the time is up (sometime during your span of cooking the risotto), turn off the oven and leave the tomatoes inside to stay warm.

Set a pot on the stovetop over medium heat.  Fill with the broth and add 2 sage leaves, a few stems of thyme, and one crushed garlic clove.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down low.

Prep the veggies: Finely dice the shallots.  Mince the remaining garlic cloves.  Dice the mushrooms.

In a large pan, over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and then add the chopped shallots.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until the shallots are softened.  Add the arborio rice and stir to coat in the butter.  Cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until the rice turns opaque and smells a little toasted.  Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, for one more minute.  Add the white wine and continue stirring until the liquid is absorbed.  Stir in the mushrooms.  Add a ladle-full of hot broth and continue stirring.  Just keep on stirring to release the starch of the rice, which makes risotto super creamy.  The liquid will begin to be absorbed until when you pull your spoon across the pan, there will be a second or two where you can see the trail of the spoon before the rice mixture begins to pool back together.  Then it is time to add another ladle of broth and stir some more.  Always keep stirring and adding a ladle of broth once the previous is absorbed.  When you are down to just one more ladle of broth, chop up and add the herbs.  When all of the broth has been added to the pan and absorbed by the rice mixture, add the cream, parmesan, and the final tablespoon of butter.  Stir until the cream is absorbed.

Top with the roasted tomatoes and serve immediately.


Sun-dried Tomato, Spinach, and Goat Cheese Risotto

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The short list of recipes/food creation in the kitchen that intimidate me:

  • Kale chips
  • Deep frying
  • Souffles
  • Homemade stock
  • Butchering
  • Risotto

All of these seem to have this aura of difficulty or precision or just a mystical, well-kept secret to success that isn’t shared with home cooks.  After my kale chip attempt proved utterly successful and laughably easy, I was ready to tackle my list again with a little more confidence.  M and his godfather both started with a seafood risotto (full of paella flavors) when we went out to eat.  I stole a bite, of what is my first taste of risotto in my memory.  It was just as creamy and lovely as I had hoped, and, after stumbling across more and more recipes, I finally bit the bullet and set up for my first attempt.  All that I had read about risotto made me certain that I wanted to make this recipe by the book.  I’m prone to substitution and modification, but I wasn’t going to take any chances.

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I did a bit of research and cobbled together what seemed like the most-often used ingredients and ratios for a basic risotto.  Then I played a little, finally settling on my tangy combo of spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and chevre.  I was a bit heavy-handed with my basil, since I used a finely pureed frozen version that completely immersed the dish, but otherwise, it was the warming dish that I had hoped.  And, again, like my kale chips, risotto was much easier than I had anticipated.  It does require constant stirring, however, beyond having to stand at the stove, it is actually fairly simple in terms of ingredients and additions.

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I have scaled back the amount of basil in this recipe.  My best advice would be to use the fresh herbs.  When your chopping it, you can control just how small to chop the leaves (and therefore just how invasive the flavor will be).  The basic recipe covers the technical requirements, otherwise, play around and have fun adding other flavors!  Since most add-in’s are added at the end of the cooking period, or else at the very beginning, they do not have much of an effect on the general order of the recipe.

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Basic Risotto

Serves 4 | Prep: 15 min | Cook time: 30-45 min

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 c. arborio rice
  • 1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 c. white wine
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, grated*
  • Salt and pepper

*If Add-in ingredients to the basic recipe includes a focus on a different kind of cheese (like the goat cheese in mine), sub 1/4 of the parmesan for the focus cheese.

Add the stock to a medium pot and bring to a low simmer.

Prep all ingredients completely before putting heat to your risotto pan.  Use the time while the broth is warming to prepare the mise en place.  I have heard the advice and lectures about mise en place (french for “everything in place” or the ingredient set up for cooking–chopped, measured and prepped–before beginning to cook, as used in professional restaurants).  I, often times, do not follow it or else only halfway: everything chopped, but not measured.  Risotto is not a recipe to ignore mise en place.  Have all of your ingredients measured, chopped, minced, etc before you add anything to the pan.

When the broth is warm and everything is prepared, place a large saucepan or saute pan over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of butter and the olive oil and melt together.  Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until turning translucent.  Add rice, cook for about 1-2 minutes.  Stir vigorously, to coat each rice grain with the oil-butter mixture.  A lightly “toasty” smell should be detected under the onion.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute, until fragrant.  Add the white wine and, stirring constantly, cook until absorbed, about 5 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup of warm broth and continue to stir and cook until absorbed.  Repeat with another 1/2 cup of broth, waiting until the liquid is absorbed entirely by the rice before adding the next 1/2 cup.  With 4 cups of broth, you should have 8 rounds, total, of adding 1/2 cup of broth and stirring until absorbed.  It takes around 25-30 minutes.  The more broth you add, the creamier the rice will get, but you should always be able to notice that the liquid is finally absorbed.  In the last few rounds, a small taste is helpful.  Ultimately, the rice should be chewy, with the hint of a “bite” or slight firmness, like al dente pasta.

Remove the rice from the heat and stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, the parmesan, and any Add-in ingredients.  Serve immediately.

Risotto will not keep well, refrigeration will make it gooey.  Enjoy it just cooked.  If you are cooking for less people, halve or quarter the recipe (approximate on the butter and oil.  Everything else is pretty easily divided).

My add-ins last night were spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and basil, but I’ve rounded up some of the more classic pairings.  Search through a couple google results to get your on inspiration for add-ins:

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Add-Ins:

Spinach, Goat Cheese, & Tomato Risotto

  • 1/2 c. sun dried tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 1/2 c. frozen or 1 c. fresh spinach, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1 tsp. frozen/dried or 1 Tbsp fresh basil, minced
  • 1/4 c. chevre, crumbled

Stir into risotto with the butter and parmesan after it is removed from the heat.  Continue stirring until goat cheese is melted.  Serve.

Risotto al Pomodoro

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil (replace butter in basic recipe)
  • 1 c. plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil, minced

Use olive oil in place of butter, adding according to basic recipe.  Stir in tomatoes and basil with the parmesan at the end.  Serve.

Risotto alla Milanese

  • 4 c. beef stock (to replace chicken/vegetable stock)
  • 3 Tbsp beef marrow (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp lard (if you want to be really authentic.  Butter is easier to find)
  • 1-2 tsp. saffron

Heat the saffron in the beef stock.  Stir in the marrow when you cook the onions.  Use lard in place of butter.  Follow directions above.

Mushroom Risotto

  • 12 oz mushrooms of choice, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp thyme, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

Cook the mushrooms alongside the onions and through the broth-adding process.  Stir in the herbs after removing from heat.

Spring Risotto

  • 1 1/2 c. asparagus, chopped into one inch pieces
  • 1/2 c. frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. parsley, finely chopped

Cook asparagus in microwave while stirring risotto.  Add all ingredients after removing risotto from heat.  Serve immediately.

What  would you put in your risotto?