November 20th, 2011

Chanterelle Risotto

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It’s a rainy afternoon in Nashville, and I should be doing other things. I have a writing assignment, due tomorrow, barely started. We leave early Tuesday morning for the long drive up to DC for Thanksgiving festivities with my daughter and son-in-law—and I gotta get cooking, too.

Cornbread dressing needs its cornbread base; pumpkin pies need their butter-rich crusts, and roasted garlic mashed potatoes ain’t nothin’ without a bundle of roasted garlic cloves.

I will get to all of that; I promise. I’m a seasoned procrastinator, if nothing else. For ill or naught, I’ve convinced myself that I do better work under the tick-tick-tick of a deadline.

Besides, I have something more enticing at hand to share with you: a rich bowl of risotto, laden with gold: Chanterelles!

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For their rare yellow-orange hue, silken but meaty texture, and delicate taste—nutlike, earthy, with hint of stone fruit—-I prize these mushrooms above the others.

Foraged or harvested, Now is their Time. I’ve seen these beauties turning up at the grocery store (Whole Foods) but I was stunned this week to find them at Costco. And, at $10 a pound.

Irresistible.

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The chanterelle’s distinctive flavor warrants simplicity in preparation, perhaps imbued in a bisque, or tangled in a pasta. You really want to showcase this mushroom–and not overpower it with heavy or competing tastes.

Today, using some pantry staples, I made a risotto. It didn’t take long, and was a pleasure to make. Leeks lent a sweet green contrast. Chanterelle stems chopped and cooked into the mixture added depth.

A good risotto is dependent on a good broth. Organic mushroom broth purchased at the market is a bit of a “cheater” –but a respectable product. I find it preferable to vegetable or chicken broth in this instance.

I didn’t use it exclusively—I added water as well. If there had been a bottle of sherry in my pantry, I would have stirred in a cup.

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I’ve talked about Carnaroli Rice before, and if you can find it, I encourage you to give it a try. A larger, plumper grain with higher starch content, the Italians call it their superfino.

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Stir-stir, pour, and stir some more–

It’s actually fun to watch the rice absorb the liquid, plump up, and release its starches. Time? Thirty minutes–and it goes quickly. When you’re immersed in the process, that dimension vanishes.

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Risotto-making gives you time to think–and today, while stirring and savoring its perfume, I thought about you, and this blog. And how I’d better post this recipe as soon as possible. Because you’d enjoy this dish on a dreary fall afternoon.

It is simple comfort food, with fancy-pants style.

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My thoughts also turned to this season of giving thanks and expressing gratitude, the ebb and flow of what we give and what we receive. Health. A warm home and loving family. A stocked pantry. A garden. Art. Words. Beautiful things.

And, many friends, some unseen.

I want to thank you all for stopping by to visit, reading and commenting. It’s always nice to have you along on my little culinary journey, sharing good food and camaraderie. I value our connections.

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Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving! If you’re traveling, be safe. Enjoy the bounty at the table and the time spent together. We’ll visit again soon—

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CHANTERELLE RISOTTO
1 lb. Chanterelles
2 Leeks
8 T. Butter
1 1/2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
1 qt. Mushroom Broth
2 cups Water (or 1 cup Water, 1 cup Sherry)
Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
a few shavings of Parmegiano-Reggiano

Carefully clean the mushrooms. Trim the stems, and reserve.
Cut the remaining bulk of the mushroom (mostly cap, some stem) into slices.
Clean and thinly slice the leeks. Divide.
Coarsely chop the reserved stem pieces.
In a large stockpot set on medium heat, saute the chanterelle pieces with half of the chopped leeks in 4 T. melted butter. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in short-grain rice, and let the grains get coated with the buttery saute. Reduce heat to low.

Pour in one cup mushroom broth and stir well.

In a separate skillet, melt remaining butter. Saute sliced chanterelles and leeks with a flick of salt and pepper for about 5 minutes–until leeks collapse, and chanterelles become soft, tender. Remove from heat. (You can do this step before cooking the rice, if you like.)

Continue adding liquid to the rice mixture, stirring often, scraping the sides and bottom of the pot so that nothing sticks. Alternate mushroom broth and water. (or water/sherry), adding more liquid as the rice absorbs it.

It takes about 30 minutes for the rice to plump up, while releasing the starches that make that delectable spoon-creaminess.

Stir in sauteed chanterelles and leeks, reserving a few spoonfuls to place on top of each bowl.

Spoon risotto into bowls. Place a scoop of sliced chanterelles in the center. Garnish with a few shaving of parmegiano-reggiano, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

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Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Vegetarian Dishes | 30 Comments »