Monday, April 5, 2010

A Dish to Celebrate Spring

Spring has sprung in the Northeast!!!

This past Easter weekend brought cloud-less skies and warm temperatures to the area (and for people along the coast, like me, magical morning fog). It was the ideal weather for playing outside, cleaning up after the recent storms and floods, and for going to the farmers market.

Brainstorming with my family on what to make for our Easter feast, my mind immediately goes to four of my favorite foods: farm fresh eggs, ricotta, asparagus, and wild mushrooms. I ate my fair share of eggs and asparagus this weekend (scrambled eggs, homemade hollandaise, steamed asparagus, ricotta cheesecake, gougeres, quiche, fritattas, roast asparagus, omelettes...and yes, a GOLDEN egg), but really no mushrooms. And, I really did forget all about my severe morel craving.

So last night, when I was celebrating Easter with my family at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, I was digging into my greenhouse greens to discover hidden surprises: lovely, tenderly roasted morsels of mushrooms. And, that morel and mushroom craving came back. With a vengeance.

So, I'm still in search of more mushrooms. I haven't yet quite had my fill (Is there a place that makes your  favorite mushroom dish? Share with me! I will travel!). But, in the meantime, my mind keeps wandering back to this amazing risotto I made for dinner one night while some friends and I were skiing in Utah. I made this for the Oscars, and we sat in front of the TV with our votes for who would win, along with some seared brussels sprouts, chicken sausages, and salad. Of course, I had made a LOT of risotto, so we kept on eating it (for dinner the next night, then I had more for leftovers, and a bit more in case I needed a snack on the flight home. It travels well...just don't wrap the container in foil like I did. TSA thought it was a bit suspicious. Oops). It definitely is good for leftovers, even a couple days later. Next time? I want to try making arancini with it. Mmm...

Yummy Mushroom Risotto (for 10)

5 1/2 c chicken stock (you can use vegetable stock if you wish to make this truly vegetarian)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion, finely diced
3/4 c dry white wine
2 c Arborio rice
5 cups wild mushrooms (As you might have guessed, I have a thing for mushrooms. The more wild, the better. I used one container each of shitakes, baby bella, and matsutake/Hen of the Woods mushrooms), diced
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c (or more if you wish – I use more like a cup) freshly grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 c freshly basil, chiffonade, plus more for garnish
Freshly grated Parmigiano, for garnish

First, bring chicken stock to a boil on stove. Once hot, you can turn if off and let sit. Heat a large saucepan or stockpot over medium-high heat. Add oil and butter. When butter is melted, add onions, season lightly, and cook until the onions are tender and translucent. Add the mushrooms and cook until halfway tender and any excess moisture has evaporated (they will cook more as you cook the risotto). Add the rice, and gently stir until the outer layer is lightly translucent. Deglaze with the wine and cook until it is mostly all absorbed

Now, here comes the labor of love part. Adding the broth cup-by-cup, and gently stirring the risotto while the liquid is absorbed. Make sure that you continually stir the risotto, and be sure of wipe clean the entire bottom of the pot frequently with your spoon so it doesn’t stick. You are to only add the next cup once the first cup of liquid is all but absorbed. This long and slow process is the key to making a wonderful, creamy risotto.

After about 20 minutes of cooking, begin to taste the rice. It is done when it is tender, yet there is still a bit of bite. You will also want the consistency to be slightly moist – not at all runny. Add the butter and stir to incorporate. Then add the Gruyere and basil. You should now check the seasoning to make sure it is to your liking.

Serve hot with more basil and Parmigiano for garnish!

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