The Heart of New England
Quick Authentic Mushroom Risotto
By Charlie Burke

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Because traditional risotto preparation requires the cook to stand over the stove,
add liquid in increments and stir frequently, it is perceived as difficult and
tedious, but, like most peasant dishes, it is not complicated once understood.

It is essential to use the correct rice, such as Arborio or Caronoli which are short
grain and starchy and which give the dish its creaminess. Arborio rice is easily
found, even in supermarkets; Caronoli is less common and is most readily found
on the Internet. After briefly sautéing onion and the rice, a small amount of wine
is added, and the liquid is stirred in a cup or so at a time until the rice is done,
usually in about twenty minutes. In different recipes ingredients are added at the
start or when the rice is done, depending upon their cooking time. Shrimp and
other delicate fish are added at the end and cook in minutes as the rice finishes;
heartier ingredients such as the mushrooms in this recipe are added with the
liquid.

I enjoy cooking
risotto traditionally when time is not important, but I must
confess that most of the time I take the easy way out and use a pressure cooker.
The new designs are much safer than old models, save time and produce great
results.

The proportion of liquid to rice stays essentially the same in different recipes, so
it’s easy to improvise with your favorite ingredients and flavors. In the spring I
enjoy making a plain risotto with chicken stock, adding tender asparagus and
Parmesan cheese at the end. Add shrimp, scallops or other fish at the end of the
basic recipe, and omit the cheese for seafood risotto. Because these dishes can be
done start to finish in twenty minutes or so, they lend themselves to weeknight
dinners and can be easily made if friends drop in.

This risotto, with both dried and fresh mushrooms adding a rich earthy flavor, is a
great meatless meal. I usually sauté the fresh mushrooms until browned, but they
can be added uncooked to save time. With a good red wine, salad and bread,
Northern Italy won’t feel far away.

Four servings:

1 ½ cups Arborio rice
4 cups hot water (in other recipes, use vegetable, chicken, beef or fish stock)
8 – 10 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
¾ - 1 oz dried porcini or other mushroom
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/3 cup dry white or red wine
6 Colamata or similar black olive, chopped
1 small onion chopped (½ - ¾ cup)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for passing at the table
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; more if sautéing mushrooms

Heat water in the microwave or use hot tap water; add dried mushrooms and set
aside for five minute. If sautéing mushrooms, heat a heavy sauté pan over high
heat, film with oil and cook until moisture evaporates and mushrooms are
browned. While mushrooms cook, lift dried mushrooms from the liquid and set
aside. Strain mushroom liquid through a strainer lined with a paper towel and
reserve.

In pressure cooker, heat two tablespoons oil over medium – high heat, add onions
and stir until translucent. Add rice, stirring until grains are coated with oil and are
somewhat translucent. Add wine and boil until nearly evaporated* Mix tomato
paste into liquid and add to rice. Add oregano, olives and the mushrooms,
stirring well. Cover pressure cooker and cook for exactly six minutes after
pressure reaches high. After six minutes cooking under high pressure, place
cooker into sink and bring pressure down rapidly by running cold water over top
and sides. Remove cover, raising its far side first so steam escapes away from
you. Place back on heat, add cheese, stirring well. Taste, adding salt and pepper
as needed. Serve immediately, passing extra cheese.

Use this as a master recipe. Use white wine for most recipes, matching the
different liquids with the ingredients and you will soon have a risotto repertoire.
Left over risotto formed into patties and fried in olive oil makes a great lunch, as
well.

*If not using a pressure cooker, at this time add all ingredients except mushroom
liquid and cheese, stir well, lower heat to medium and add liquid a cup at a time,
stirring frequently. This technique requires more liquid, so have 6 cups available.
It should be hot because cold liquid slows the cooking of the rice. Add each cup
as the preceding liquid is absorbed; depending on the moisture in the
ingredients, you may not use all the liquid. Cook until rice is just tender (twenty
minutes or so) and finish as above.
Quick Mushroom Risotto
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