For a little pre-Christmas gift, Yeti (my nickname for my large, formidable husband) bought himself a mushroom kit. In 10 days, this science experiment went from a plain brown block to a forest of the most beautiful pioppino mushrooms I’ve ever seen. Taking over one corner of our dining room table, this mushroom grove producing several pounds (I haven’t totaled it yet) of fungi inspired me to create dishes I hadn’t thought about recently. I turned to one of my favorite books, Fabio’s Italian Kitchen (Hyperion, $24.99) to see how author-chef Fabio Viviani likes to craft risotto. I tinkered with the recipe some, using white wine instead of red; chicken stock instead of beef; and using our pioppino mushrooms instead of the oyster and shiitake mushrooms Fabio recommends. I also added thyme and green peas, with wonderful results. We were both wowed at the difference in texture and freshness the mushrooms bring when harvested a couple of minutes before cooking. So, even if you don’t have a grow-your-own kit, be sure to use the freshest mushrooms available for this wealth of comfort in a bowl.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
4 slices pancetta or bacon, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 pound fresh mushrooms, such as pioppino, shiitake, oyster or cremini, roughly chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/3 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock or broth
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3/4 cup frozen green peas
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy-bottom pan over medium heat. Add pancetta or bacon and cook about 3 to 4 minutes or until browned. Add onion and cook a little longer, about 5 minutes, stirring. Add mushrooms and a little salt and pepper, stirring, until softened. Add rice, stir and cook another 3 minutes. Pour in wine, stir well and simmer until wine is absorbed.
Begin adding chicken stock, stirring in 1/2 to 3/4 cup at a time, stirring all the while, until liquid is absorbed. Continue in this fashion, gradually adding stock and stirring, as the mixture simmers and absorbs the liquid. The process takes about 20 minutes; just keep stirring so the mixture doesn’t stick to bottom of pan. When the rice is tender, add a little more stock with thyme and peas; adjust seasonings. Stir another 4 to 5 minutes, adding in Parmesan at finish. Garnish with a little chopped Italian parsley or chives and serve.