Porcini and Shiitake Risotto

I've made risotto a handful of times, but recently I have been re-learning some recipes for a little self-improvement. In the case of re-learning basic risotto, here comes the Bittman books again, making things simple and unfailingly delicious.

I've had luck with squash risotto and barley risotto, but I was seeking a more flavorful main dish this time. The neighbors were coming for dinner and I intended to serve some non-vegetarians a veg meal they would feel satisfied with.

Mushrooms and risotto are a match made in heaven. It is earthy and flavorful with meaty chunks of protein-rich mushrooms.

Dried Fancy Porcini Mushrooms
I had avoided using dried mushrooms in the past because of a bad experience. Where I grew up, in Vermont, we picked our own chanterelles. Sometimes I would call several stores in NYC and ask their prices for my sweet little orange friends, usually around $30-45/lb. I'd grab a quarter pound to mix with less expensive mushrooms for a nice soup.  Once, I broke down and bought some dried chanterelles when I couldn't find them in the markets and followed directions to soak them before adding to soup. The package didn't say to rinse them, so I didn't. I assumed you wanted all the flavor possible, so why would I pour any down the drain? They were crunchy with dirt. Soup trashed. So disappointing.

I was afraid I'd gamble $10 on a small package of mushrooms that might be filled with dirt. This time I felt assured as I followed Bittman's directions which were clear about bathing them properly.

I added a twist, and some texture, by serving the risotto over roasted rings of delicata squash. Between the squash and mushrooms, the rice had enough flavor that you won't miss the cheese, if you want to leave it out to make it vegan.

Delicata is the "sweet potato" of squashes for it's sweet flavor and smooth (not stringy) texture.
Roast slices of delicata squash for an interesting side dish - use leftovers in salad.
On the side, I served a simple heirloom tomato salad and lemon-scented green beans. My meat-eating guests definitely felt satisfied, taking second and third helpings.

I'm glad I gave dried mushrooms a second chance. They now have a permanent spot in my pantry.

I never thought of Misty's coloring as mushroom... but I guess she's right!


I love mushroom risotto & yours sounds perfect.

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