The cool air feels heavy with silence, no sound but the hypnotic crunch of leaves underfoot. As you map the ground below, an intricate puzzle unravels under the scrutiny of your gaze. There’s a flash of white and your stomach flutters in excitement, and you bend closer. Brushing sweetly decayed leaves aside, you uncover not one but three bulbous porcini mushrooms and carefully lift them from their damp bedding. The moment of joy fades quickly as your hunt resumes.
Foraging for mushrooms is ritualistic and requires immense patience. After hours spent tromping through mushroom territory, you may come home bearing pounds, ounces or none of the marvelous treasure. Filled with the earthy nuances of wild fungi, this porcini mushroom risotto balances rich textures and umami flavors with a bright pop of lemon, fresh herbs, and aromatic fennel pollen. A wonderful dish to serve throughout the year, its velvety texture and inviting flavor make it perfect for the holiday season.
PORCINI MUSHROOM RISOTTO
▢ 1 cup good risotto rice such as carnaroli or arborio
▢ 4 oz crimini mushrooms
▢ 1 packet dried Porcini Mushrooms
▢ 6 cups water
▢ 4 tbsp butter
▢ 4 tbsp olive oil
▢ 1 leek
▢ 4 cloves garlic, minced
▢ 1 cup chardonnay
▢ 1 tsp fresh thyme
▢ 1/2 cup freshly shaved Pecorino Romano
▢ zest and juice of 1 lemon
▢ Freshly chopped parsley
▢ Fennel Pollen
- Rehydrate the dried porcini mushrooms in 2 cups of warm water for 30 minutes to an hour. Reserve the liquid. Roughly chop the porcini mushrooms and set aside.
- Chop the darker green top of the leek off, keeping only the white bottom, and discard the green top. Half the leek lengthwise, then quarter lengthwise again. Finely chop and place in a large bowl of cold water, gently separating with your fingers to help any sand fall to the bottom of the bowl.
- Place the crimini mushrooms into a pot with the liquid used to rehydrate the porcini, along with the remaining 4 cups of water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Strain out the mushrooms and place the stock back on the stove to keep warm.
- Carefully lift the leeks from the water bowl using a sieve. By lifting the leeks out of the water, rather than draining through a sieve, you’ll keep the sand in the bottom of the bowl.
- Bring a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil along with the leeks and saute with salt and pepper until the leeks soften, roughly 5 minutes. Add the rice and thyme, and saute until the grains turn translucent, roughly 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic, sauté for 30 seconds, and deglaze with wine.
- Turn the temperature to low, and cook for 2 minutes until the rice has completely absorbed the wine. Add ½ cup of stock to the rice, and cook until the rice has absorbed the liquid, stirring continuously with your wooden spoon. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked to an al dente consistency, with just a little bite when you chew. To achieve the velvety texture of the sauce, it is key to keep the temperature low, so be patient. Season with salt and pepper.
- In a heavy bottomed pan, add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped porcini mushrooms and season well with salt and pepper. Be careful not to over stir, as this will make it harder to brown. Cook until the mushrooms have browned and have absorbed any liquid in the pan.
- Add the porcini mushrooms to the risotto with lemon zest, juice of ½ the lemon, and ¼ cup of freshly grated pecorino. Stir to incorporate.
- Serve with the remaining freshly grated pecorino, a pinch of fennel pollen, and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.