The upside to having to endure a stretch of rainy weather is the promise of an abundance of fabulous fresh porcini mushrooms, at least in Italy. In most of the US however, availability of fresh porcini like these is rare to non-existent. Fortunately, though not the same as fresh, dried porcini mushrooms can deliver a rich porcini flavor. One of our favorite ways to use them is in a risotto. It is important to use very good quality dried porcini so we always used to pack some in our luggage when we returned from Italy. Just recently, we have started importing one of the best brands available in Italy, which, together with an extraordinary Carnaroli rice we also import from Italy, make an incomparable risotto.
Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms
(From How to Cook Italian by Giuliano Hazan)
Total time from start to finish: 45 minutes
Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as part of a multi-course Italian meal
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
½ beef and ½ chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 5 cups water
½ medium yellow onion
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 tablespoons butter
1 ½ cups rice for risotto (carnaroli or vialone nano)
- Put the dried porcini in a bowl, cover with water, and soak for at least 15 minutes.
- Put the broth in a pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer.
- While the porcini are soaking, peel and finely chop the onion.
- When the porcini are ready, put the onion and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy bottomed braising pan and place over medium high heat. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns a rich golden color, about 5 minutes.
- While the onion is sautéing, lift the porcini out of the water, squeezing the excess back into the bowl; do not discard the water. Rinse the mushrooms under running water, then chop them coarsely. Pour the water they soaked in into a small pot. Be aware that there may be some sand at the bottom of the bowl so pour carefully or strain through a paper towel. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer
- Add the chopped porcini to the onion, season with salt, and stir a few times. Add the rice and stir until it is well coated. Add about 1 cup of the hot broth and continue stirring. Add only enough broth to produce the consistency of a rather thick soup and wait until all the liquid is absorbed before adding more. As soon as the water the porcini soaked in is hot, add that instead until you’ve used it all up, then go back to using the broth. Continue until the rice is al dente, 20-25 minutes.
- Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter and the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve at once.