Although this mushroom risotto demands a little attention, it’s well worth your efforts. It’s also a great holiday side dish.
Use The Right Rice
The perfect risotto starts with using the right rice.
What you have on your shelf probably won’t fill the bill here because it’s more than likely long-grain rice. For a good risotto, you need a very starchy short-grain rice and arborio is the best choice.
Arborio is good to have on hand because it can be used for other things besides risotto. If you do a lot of Asian-style dishes, a sticky rice is more authentic.
Build A Flavor Base
Getting a base of flavor is important with any rice dish since rice itself is bland.
The basic flavor base is onion and garlic. In this I added a bit of bacon in the mix because you get a powerful amount of flavor from just a little bit. If you can find pancetta, that’s even better, but plain old bacon will do just fine.
Tasty Mushrooms Start Like This
Coaxing a lot of flavor out of any mushroom starts with one simple process–high heat.
Searing mushrooms at high heat in a bit of olive oil produces tons of flavor. Get your skillet very hot then put in about 1-2 tablespoons of a good olive oil. The oil will immediately begin to smoke, but that’s OK here. Quickly add the mushrooms and toss and stir until they begin to brown. You’ll be amazed at the amount of flavor this simple step produces.
Season the mushrooms with any salt and pepper after they have browned. If you do this before, they won’t brown or brown as well. Strange but true.
The Secret To The Sauce
Stirring and adding stock in increments is the secret to the risotto’s creamy sauce.
You “tease out” the starch by adding small amounts of liquid to the rice in intervals. This process is repeated until all of the stock is gone. By that time, the rice should be tender but not mushy.
The formula is approximately 4:1–4 parts liquid to 1 part rice.
- 1¼ cup arborio rice
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- 3 slices uncooked bacon, finely diced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 8 oz fresh mushrooms thickly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
- 1 tsp fresh thyme -OR- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 1 box (32 oz) chicken stock (see NOTES)
- 4 tbs butter
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (see NOTES)
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add 2 tbs of the olive oil (oil will begin to smoke if the pan is hot enough—this is OK). Quickly add the mushrooms and sear them over the high heat until they begin to brown. Add HALF of the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat a deep saucepan (3 or 4 quart size) over medium heat. Put in the remaining oil and heat through. Add the bacon and cook until it renders and begins to brown. Add the onion, remaining garlic and thyme; cook until onion is translucent. Add the rice and stir, making sure rice is coated with the oil. Stir in the ¼ cup wine. Cook, stirring frequently until the wine is mostly absorbed.
- Add about ½ cup of the chicken stock. Stir frequently until liquid is almost absorbed. Continue, adding stock in increments of about ½ cup and stirring until it is almost absorbed until all the stock is used. Rice should be tender at this point and there should be a creamy sauce.
- Add the reserved mushrooms and garlic; stir well. Stir in the butter and the cheese. Correct seasoning by adding salt and pepper to taste.
You can use 2 tbs Romano & 2 tbs Parmesan for more flavor.