Bagging up Honeycrisp, Suncrisp and Mutsu apples at the greenmarket
CAMBA Food Drive March 9-13

Risotto is wonderful winter fare


(photo by Ian Britton/

Rice trumps potato - at least to my way of thinking. Sure, I love a delicious dollop of garlic mashed potatoes as much as the next starch fiend, but rice wins hand down it comes to its nimble versatility.

Risotto is a favorite winter rice dish of mine, classic Northern Italian fare distinctive for its creamy finish and the individual bite in each kernel of rice. Made from rice or riso native to Italy, risotto has its traditional versions like Risotto Milanese, but there are infinite variations - limited only by the quick imagination of the cook. 

Since I picked up some lovely mushrooms in the market - maitake, shiitake, baby bella, and oyster - the logical next step was to combine the two.

Don't grab just any bag of rice and start rattling your pots and pans. Risotto is made from riso or  rice native to Italy, and like the dish itself, there are many varieties.  This special Italian rice consists of two distinct starches - a quite soft exterior which melts away, creating the creamy texture in risotto, and an extremely hard starch kernel, which gives the grain dish its firm bite.

The three main types most often used are Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialalone Nano.  Almost everyone is familiar with the widely used Arborio, a superfino (which denotes the small grain size) rice; however, many cooks prefer Carnaroli, also a superfino, and Vialone Nano, a semifino.

Typically, I use Arborio or Carnaroli when making risotto.  In researching, Vialone Nano, which you can find in my market, I discovered it is the perfect riso for cooking a risotto which has delicate ingredients with robust flavors - like humble and earthy mushrooms. 

The traditional rice of the Mantua and Veneto regions, Vialone Nano (nano is Italian for dwarf) is a round, "half-long" grain rice that can absorb twice its grain weight in liquid.  It's ideal for a velvety risotto with an al dente bite, and pairs well with vegetables, meats, seafoods. ghly 20 minutes.

For this recipe, I use a two-pan method. Serve with roasted mixed vegetables such as cubed winter squash, brussel sprouts and apples.

Risotto with Mixed Mushrooms

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves Four

4 cups of chicken stock

1/4 cup dry white wine, room temperature

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup of Italian rice

1/2 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup thinly sliced  mushrooms (maitake, oyster, shiitake & baby bella)

a pinch of saffron threads

1 cup Parmigiano, freshly grated

Bring chicken stock to a boil, then reduce to low to keep warm. Heat the olive oil over medium heat, adding the oinon and garlic to saute until just soft before adding the mushrooms.  Continue sauteeing for an addition 2-3 minutes. 

Meanwhile place rice so it just covers the bottom of a large pan over low heat for about five minutes to heat.  Add sauteed vegetables to the rice, mixing so the grains are coated. 

To the rice, add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring continously until until the liquid is absorbed. Add the saffron just before adding the wine, which should be your last liquid. This process takes about 20 minutes.

Rice should be tender yet firm with a creamy finish before adding the cheese snd the butter. Serve with roasted mixed vegetables such as cubed winter squash, brussel sprouts and apples.


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