Mushroom Risotto--Arborio rice with savory mushrooms and creamy Italian cheeses make a tasty vegetarian side dish
It's not dessert, but risotto's a piece of cake
Are you familiar with "risotto"? If you peek at Wikipedia, they will tell you that "Risotto is a class of Italian dishes of rice cooked in broth to a creamy consistency. It is one of the most common ways of cooking rice in Italy."
Yes, it is cooked rice, and it is a bit more complicated than Minute Rice from a box, but it's also far more satisfying.
Risotto is not difficult, but the rice that you choose is very important. Don't run to your cupboard and grab a box of Uncle Ben's or a sack of generic long-grain rice. It won't work. You need a short-grain arborio rice. Arborio rice has a higher starch content and remains firm (al dente) when cooked--that is exactly what you want and need for a proper risotto.
Risotto is creamy, but not mushy. The grains remain gently "toothy" but are enveloped in a creamy cloak which results from the mixing of the starch with the liquids in which the rice simmers.
This risotto marries cheesy-creamy rice with the earthy flavor of mushrooms and the herbal note of thyme.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
- 1/2 cup minced onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- 3-4 cups chicken, vegetable, or mushroom broth, heated to a simmer
- 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
- 1/4 cup marscapone cheese
- In large frying pan melt 1 tablespoon butter with olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and cook until lightly browned (3 to 4 minutes). Stir in thyme.
- Add 1/4 cup of the wine and cook until wine is absorbed. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
- Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add rice, pepper, and remaining 1/2 cup white wine. Stir to insure that rice does not clump together and cook until wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup broth, reduce heat to low, and stir until broth is almost absorbed. Continue to add broth, 1/2 cup at a time and stirring until rice is creamy and tender but still firm in center. This should take about 15 to 18 minutes.
- Stir in mushrooms. Remove from heat and stir in Parmigiano-Reggiano and mascarpone cheese.
What makes this recipe work?
Aborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice named after the town in the Po Valley in which it is grown.
Varieties of rice are roughly grouped into three distinct categories--long grain, medium grain, or short grain. Long-grain rice is about four times as long as wide, medium grain is twice as long, and short-grain is almost round. However shape is not what makes these rices perform differently when cooked. What matters is the amounts of amylose and amylopectin starch.
Amylose starch does not break down when heated, but amylopectin does. Rice high in amylose stays fluffy, with distinct individual grains (unless you overcook it). On the other hand, rice high in amylopectin (which is gelatinous) becomes starchy or "sticky" when cooked. It is the stickiness of those grains which gives risotto its creamy texture.
© 2011 Linda Lum
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