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Fresh Mushroom Risotto

Well, Thanksgiving is officially over. I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday and ate all the things. I was hoping to put up a post last week, but I ended up getting sick after the holiday so I held out. This week,  I wanted to go for something a little bit different than anything we’d had for Thanksgiving so I decided to go for the Wild Mushroom Risotto featured in Back to Basics. Risotto is something that I’ve always felt is super fancy and always looks really, really good. However, I’ve tried to make it a few times before and never had any success at it. The rice would always be undercooked. I mean like still crunchy. I decided I would take my time with this one and follow the methodology that Ina laid out exactly when making it and hope that it would turn out.

img_0635The first thing that you’ll need is Arborio rice. This is the best rice to use for risotto as it is short grain and VERY starchy    which is what makes risotto creamy. You can find this in the regular grocery store in the rice isle. It’s pretty common now. If you use jasmine rice or brown rice, it will just absorb the liquid and won’t release the starch. You’ll end up with a pot of rice, which I’m sure will still taste good, but it won’t be creamy like risotto.

The one thing different that I noticed I never did before was to heat the chicken stock while I’m cooking the risotto. Essentially you’re stirring and stirring the rice while adding the stock a little bit at a time while the rice absorbs the liquid and releases its starches. In my prior experiences, I just dumped the stock in straight from the can or box. This go around I decided to take Ina’s word on it and I used my homemade stock I made a few months ago and I heated it in a separate pot on the stove over medium/low heat.  Honestly, this makes sense to me now. I took a cooking class a few years ago and the instructor told us that the quickest way to bring the temperature of a pan down is to add food to it. So, when I was making the risotto before and I was adding the room temperature stock to the rice, it was dropping the temperature of the pot and it wouldn’t cook through. If the stock is warm, then the cooking continues undisturbed and allows the rice to cook all the way through.

Passarola and Cremini

Passarola and Cremini

Now, let’s talk mushrooms. Ina recommends using dried Morel mushrooms. Morels are very rare to find fresh and if you do, they’re typically astronomically expensive. In an effort to make them more widely available, companies have started to dry them and sell them in stores. Then all you have to do is re-hydrate them in boiling water then you can use the broth as stock which adds even more flavor to whatever it is you’re cooking. I’ve done this with porcini mushrooms (and I will admit, it does add a TON of flavor to the dish) – I made some barley mushroom soup when I was on my vegan kick and it honestly gave the soup a beefy flavor. However, I had issues finding Morels except at the local Whole Foods for like $15 for a tiny little pack. I’d have had to buy two packs to make the risotto and I feel like $30 on one ingredient is a little too pretentious even for me. So, I improvised. I found some really cool oyster mushrooms that had a blue tint to them at Trader Joe’s and decided to use those and the Baby Bella (cremini) mushrooms. The risotto still turned out fantastic. If you want to use dried mushrooms, I provided an Amazon link at the bottom for some dried Porcini mushrooms and added a note at the end of the recipe on how to incorporate them into the risotto.

Beautiful Blue Oyster Mushrooms look just like a painting

Beautiful Blue Oyster Mushrooms look just like a painting

img_0636This also marked my first time working with Saffron. Just like the Morel mushrooms, saffron is a pretty expensive ingredient. It is the stamen of the a crocus flower. They have to be hand harvested and dried which is what gives them their mystique. It does add a beautiful yellow tint to the risotto and a spiciness that I can’t really explain. It is unique and really good. The good news is that you only need to use a tiny bit. This I did splurge on and got some from Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find any at the store, here is a link where you can order some online. I recommend this ingredient as it is difficult to duplicate the flavor of the saffron.

Overall, this risotto turned out perfectly. It was about 30 minutes of monotonous stirring, but if you have a little bit of time, it’s totally worth it. Also, it is very hearty and can easily be turned into a fully vegetarian meal, just leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock. Also, feel free to add whatever vegetables (you can use frozen) you want to this dish. It really is pretty adaptable to whatever you have going on in the fridge.

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I had to pair this dish with some wine – the recipe called for it after all! You’ll want a dry wine, meaning not sweet. If you add a sweet wine like Moscato, it will give the rice a sugary taste. I would recommend a Sauvignon Blanc as most of them have a lot of flavor and not much residual sugar. However, I used Winc’s Passarola Vinho Branco from Portugal. Vinho Branco literally means white wine in Portuguese. It is a versatile white wine and is absolutely delicious to drink with the meal and by itself to be honest. It has a lot of citrus flavor, think lemons and limes. It is also nicely balanced between acidity and sweetness. If you like Sauv Blanc, you’ll LOVE this and the good news, it is super affordable. One thing I love about Winc is how I get to try wines from all over the world, like Portugal, that I wouldn’t have normally tried otherwise. If you want to try Winc and get a discount on your first order, use my link: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Leftovers!!!

Leftovers!!!

 

Link for Porcini Mushrooms:


Print Recipe
Fresh Mushroom Risotto
Adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 144
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Remove and discard the stems of the cremini mushrooms and rub off any excess dirt with a damp paper towel. Don't rinse them! Slice and set aside. Slice the oyster mushrooms and set aside with the cremini mushrooms.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
  3. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the bacon and shallots over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of the warm chicken stock to the rice plus the saffron, salt and pepper. Stir and simmer over low heat until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock mixture, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry before adding more of the stock mixture. Continue until the rice is cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. When done, the risotto should be thick and creamy and not at all dry. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot in bowls with extra cheese.
Recipe Notes

If you use the dried mushrooms, decrease the amount of chicken stock by 2 cups. Steep the mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water for 30 minutes. Run the mushroom stock through a coffee filter to remove the sediment. Mix the mushroom stock with the chicken stock and simmer in pan. Add the now hydrated mushrooms in with the cremini mushrooms.

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A New Kind of Soup

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I’ve been hanging low this week as it has gotten colder out and I’ve been pretty busy between work and play. That hasn’t kept me from once again hitting up the Farmer’s Market here in Arlington. It seems as though no matter what, the market always draws a crowd which is really nice to see. I love supporting locally owned farms and businesses because I think that it builds a sense of community and it gives back to people who are working hard at something they believe in. One could just as easily go to a chain grocery store and pick up whatever, but you don’t really know where it is coming from. Shopping local gives you the opportunity to talk to the owners of the farms or coffee shop and get to know what you are purchasing. Most times, the owner has a real passion for what they are selling because they are the ones who either made it or tended to it as it grew versus a worker at a store. I could go on for days but I think that if you have the opportunity to shop local, go for it. The quality is usually better and you’ll be helping out your community.

 

Fresh, natural, local ingredients

Fresh, natural, local ingredients

This week I picked up some baby butternut squash and decided to make Ina’s Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. I actually bought an extra one because they were so small I wasn’t sure how much I’d need. So, I need to figure out what to do with the extra one. If you’ve never had butternut squash, you should definitely try it. I think of it as having the same texture as a potato and an earthy flavor. It does well with seasonings taking on whatever you top it with. One of my favorite things to do with it is roast it with olive oil, salt and cinnamon. Then towards the end of baking I sprinkle brown sugar on it and allow it to melt then top it with dried cranberries. It’s SO good and a good alternative to sweet potatoes as a side (especially for the holidays coming up).

The recipe also called for apples – McIntosh specifically. I couldn’t find any of that variety at the market, but I did see some Winesap apples which I thought would be different and picked those up. I think the apples add some natural sweetness to the soup versus adding sugar. Use whatever kind of apples you like because you’re essentially baking all the ingredients then blending it up. I had some carrots left in the fridge and decided to use those as well, I just peeled them, chopped them up and roasted them along with the squash. You can’t taste them but they give the soup an even more orange color and you can claim that it is a health conscious option. Haha.

The the squash in half like so and peel with a vegetable peeler

The the squash in half like so and peel with a vegetable peeler

One word about butternut squash…they are VERY dense and quite difficult to cut. I recommend cutting it in half like so and then using a vegetable peeler to peel the skin off. This is why roasting the squash is a great option. It softens the squash so that it can be processed into soup but it also concentrates the flavor versus boiling it. Also, you’ll want to remove the seeds from the bulb part. You can totally clean them and roast them like pumpkin seeds.

My kind of blender!

My kind of blender!

Ina always likes to use a food mill to process her soups or potatoes. I’ve personally never used one because I don’t have one so I don’t know if it really makes a huge difference, but I think they look difficult to store and clean. I decided to use my mini hand blender or an immersion blender as it’s called. It’s great because it is small, lightweight, and you can blend the soup or whatever up in the pot that it is cooking in. No transferring it back and forth between a blender/food processor and back. It’s also very easy to clean. If you want to try the food mill – go for it, but I don’t think it is absolutely necessary. The soup is really good without it.

The thing that makes this soup very different from others is that Ina uses curry seasoning in it and tops it with curry condiments. Curry powder is a blend of spices typically found in Indian curry dishes. It is very

Toasted Coconut? Yes, please.

Toasted Coconut? Yes, please.

potent so a little goes a long way and it isn’t spicy in a heat sort of way but it just has a lot of flavor. The toppings for this kind of threw me, I mean the coconut, onions and cashews seem ok, but I’ve never heard of curry having banana in it. It does sound weird to put banana on a savory soup, but it actually is good. I liked it. Plus, the topping provide some texture in the soup which is very creamy.

To go with the spices of the soup, I paired this with Winc’s Upswell Cabernet Sauvignon. Although it is from California, it isn’t an Napa Cab, it is from the Central Coast. I think a lot of great wine is hidden in the Central Coast of California. If you’re into Napa wine, you should definitely branch out because California has a lot to offer and the price tag is typically cheaper than those coming from Napa or Sonoma. I opened it and let it breathe for about 20 minutes before I served the soup. This wine is great for any Cab lover, it has the smokiness from the tannins that are quite typical of a California Cab along with the oak and fruit flavors that come from the grapes and oaking of the wine. For $13 you can’t beat this price on a California wine that is very easy to drink and could be paired with any meal. The boldness of the wine stands up to the flavors of the soup so one doesn’t overpower the other.

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Print Recipe
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup & Curry Condiments
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten: pg. 70
Course Soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Soup
Condiments
Course Soup
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Soup
Condiments
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Cut the butternut squash, onions, carrots, and apples into 1-inch cubes. Place them on a sheet pan and toss them with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Divide the squash mixture between 2 sheet pans and spread in a single layer. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, tossing occasionally, until very tender.
  3. Meanwhile heat the chicken stock to a simmer. When the vegetables are done, put them through a food mill fitted with a medium blade. Add some chicken stock and coarsely puree. Alternatively, place the squash mixture into a large pot with some chicken stock and process with an immersion blender until smooth. Add enough chicken stock to make a thick soup. Add the curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Taste for seasonings. Reheat and serve hot with condiments either on the side or on top of each serving.
Recipe Notes

To toast coconut, spread out onto a single layer on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes, tossing every few minutes. Watch it carefully because it will burn in a second!

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