Mushroom risotto with dried tomatoes and thyme

Mushroom risotto with dried tomatoes and thyme Last week I arrived back home in Slovakia, having a well deserved rest after a busy exam period in Prague.  Opening the door I smelt autumn or better said "mushrooms.  Rethinking, "What...

Mushroom risotto with dried tomatoes and thyme
Mushroom risotto with dried tomatoes and thyme

Last week I arrived back home in Slovakia, having a well deserved rest after a busy exam period in Prague.  Opening the door I smelt autumn or better said "mushrooms.  Rethinking, "What month is this?".... June!   Time didn't match the shroomy scent, but three big mushrooms lying on the kitchen table sure did.  There had been heavy rains and high temperatures, so the sh-room collecting season had already begun.  When I was a child, we used to go to the forest a lot to look for mushrooms, especially around Christmas time when we used them for cabbage soup.  Guess that everyone must love the feeling of finding that mushroom, much like catching a fish (although I have never experienced catching a fish as my patience, let's say, is not very high when referring to fish).  Pondering all this I got the idea to make risotto, the thought being interrupted with the smell of scrambled eggs with prosciutto and sh-rooms coming from the kitchen.  The interruption was well worth it.

I remember my first few times making risotto.  It's so easy to be misled by the appearance of rice as it doubles in volume as it soaks in liquid.  A general serving is one handful of rice for one portion of risotto making enough for two. My family, being quite athletic, and especially regarding the men, lunch consists of at least 3 handfuls between 3 guys.  Risotto can be mixed with all sorts of different ingredients.  One day I want to share a cauliflower risotto with a pinch of cinnamon.  Unusual mix but delicate in flavour and well worth trying.

For this recipe below, it is better to use dried and fresh mushrooms at a 1 to 3 ratio as opposed to canned that are not as flavorful.

Mushroom risotto with dried tomatoes and thyme

Ingredients:

  • 2 table spoons butter ,plus 2 extra for finishing
  • 1 big onion
  • Small handful of dried mushrooms, 300 ml boiling water
  • 150 g fresh mushrooms
  • 5 dried tomatoes
  • 4 handfuls of Arborio rice
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • Water as needed (cca 0,75 l)
  • Thymes, about 2 teaspoons
  • Parmiggiano Regiano or Grana Padano

    Ingredients
    Ingredients

Preparation:

  1. Let the dried mushrooms soak in preboiled water.
  2. Chop one big onion and fry at low heat with butter, add soaked cut dry mushrooms and fresh cut mushrooms. Add cut dried tomatoes and thyme and fry for another 2 minutes.

    Sundried Tomatoes
    Sundried Tomatoes

  3. Shower the rice with water and drain, just once to get a rid of any dirt present so as to keep as much starch as possible.
  4. Add rice to the pan with mushrooms and sauté? for 1-2 minutes together with sh-room mixture to let the flavours develop.
  5. Add wine and wait until the liquid incorporates.
  6. The final phase calls for some patience as we will be adding water gradually. Use also the water that dried mushrooms have been soaking in (0,3l) plus about 0,75l extra water adding about 200 ml at a time and mixing.
  7. When the rice is cooked through "al dente“ remove from heat, incorporate two extra spoons of butter and a handful of parmesan.
  8. Let sit to melt for a while and serve. Delicious with fresh tomatoes. You may also use other types of cheese for garnish.

 

A way to a prefect creamy risotto

Even such an easy looking dish as risotto may end up in a disappointing result. Here are some advice to make your risotto perfect every time.

The first important step is to choose the right type of rice. Look for short-grain types of rice, probably the most common and the most popular is Arborio, the others include carnaroli, vialone, or it may simply be labled as "risotto rice“.

The rice is high in starch called amylopectin, which breaks down when cooked. Long grain rice is not suitable for risottos as it doesn´t stick very well, also whole-grain rice as there is still a fiber-rich cover present which prevents the amylopectin from releasing during the cooking process. I´ve already tried a healthier variety of risotto from whole-grain rice, of course the result was not authentic, it didn´t get creamy itself. However, I added some cream during cooking and incorporated some extra cheese at the end. It was a different kind of "creaminess“ but still a nice version for  those who prefer whole-grain to processed rice.

To toast or not to toast the rice before cooking?

Toasting the rice before adding liquids develops a nice nutty flavour, on the other hand, it will make your risotto less creamy due to breaking of the starch under high temperature. There is a way of draining rice, keeping the water including starch, toasting and adding back to cooking process. This method is obviously more complicated but it helps us understand the process.

Have you ever wondered how they make a risotto in restaurants due to its time requirements?  Good question which however, depends strongly on the quality of restaurant. Keeping it on a steam table would overcook it and cause a mushy result instead of "al dente“, so restaurants often "discover“ other ways of having it done in a shorter period of time. The worst method I have encountered was in restaurants where they freeze the risotto which is 80% done and then finish the prefrozen one when needed. The more acceptable and more common is preparing it on big trays, adding just a few ladles of liquid, wrapping in tin foil and putting in oven for about 15 min, 190°C. Taking out the rice is just half cooked, then treated like uncooked, just the cooking process is shorter. Good quality Italian restaurants, however, make risottos just for an order. They would offer you a nice bottle of wine and waiting time from 45 minutes to an hour.