Risotto with Dried and Fresh Mushrooms

MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

TIME: 45 minutes

To me, this is an important version of risotto: not only does its intensity come with very little labor, but I always have dried mushrooms on hand (the addition of fresh mushrooms is a bonus). Note that any vegetable artichoke hearts, green beans, snow peas, and so on can be cooked on the side and stirred into the risotto at the last minute, as the shiitakes are here (see the list that follows). Use the oil and skip the cheese, and the risotto becomes vegan.

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms

4 to 5 cups vegetable stock

Large pinch saffron threads (optional)

4 to 6 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil, to taste

1 medium onion, minced

11/2 cups Arborio or other short- or medium-grain rice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry white wine or water

1 cup slivered shiitake or portobello mushroom caps

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Rinse the dried mushrooms once or twice, then soak them in hot water to cover. Put the stock in a medium saucepan over low heat; add the saffron if you’re using it. Put 2 tablespoons of the butter or oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat. (Allow the remaining butter to soften while you cook.) When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with butter, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a little salt and pepper, then the white wine. Stir and let the liquid bubble away. Drain the porcini and chop them, then stir them in, along with about half of their soaking liquid.

Use a ladle to begin to add the warmed stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep the heat medium to medium-high and stir frequently. Meanwhile, put the remaining butter or oil (more will make a creamier risotto) in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and almost crisp, about 10 minutes.

Begin tasting the rice 20 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but with still a tiny bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes to reach this stage. When it does, stir in the cooked mushrooms, with their butter, and at least 1/2 cup of Parmesan if you’re using it. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately, passing additional Parmesan at the table if you like.

3 Simple Substitutions for Risotto with Mushrooms

Use the dried mushrooms or not, as you like. Then substitute one of the following for the fresh mushrooms.

  1. Fresh peas, snow peas, snap peas, or green beans (cut up): Cook until bright and just tender; stir in at the last minute.
  2. Beets, turnips, potatoes, carrots, or other root vegetables: Cut into small cubes and parboil just until tender (or use leftovers); cook quickly in butter until lightly browned, then stir in at the last minute.
  3. Other vegetables, like broccoli or cauliflower: Cut (or break) into small florets and parboil very quickly, just until tender; cook in butter for a minute or two, then stir in at the last minute.