A hearty, warming bowl of goodness!
Meaty, flavourful mushrooms and sweet, caramelized butternut squash are the perfect sidekicks in a warm bowl of cheese-topped risotto. I used to be intimidated about preparing risotto, yet I’ve learned it’s not as tricky as I once thought. One of the best tips I ever received was from a chef who par-cooks his rice in stock, then removes it from the pot and spreads it on a sheet pan to dry. In this recipe, the pre-cooked mushrooms and squash can also be precooked. You can refrigerate everything for up to 24 hours, then return it to the pot with stock to complete the cooking process, making it much easier to prepare for a dinner party as you’ll not need to be shackled to a stove for 40 or 50 minutes while your guests eat all the appetizers without you. Look for packages of mixed mushrooms at your local supermarket or specialty produce store; truffle salt should be available at stores that sell a good range of spices. It’s a really versatile ingredient and adds a huge pop of flavour to eggs, popcorn, vegetables and more. For a suggested wine pairing with this creamy, rich dish, I’d recommend Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay 2016. It’s got surprising depth for a very lightly oaked chardonnay and the wine’s buttery notes and tropical aromas perfectly complemented the earthiness of the risotto.
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 cup (250 mL) hot water
- 4 cups (1 L) chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) butter, divided
- 3 tablespoons (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 cups (250 mL) peeled, seeded, diced butternut squash (in 1/2 inch or 1.25 cm cubes)
- 8 ounces (250 g) mixed fresh mushrooms (button, cremini, shiitake, oyster, etc.), coarsely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) fresh thyme leaves, divided
- 1 cup (250 mL) finely diced onion
- 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) truffle salt (or smoked sea salt)
- 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) short grain (Arborio) rice
- 1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) chopped fresh sage leaves or parsley
- 3/4 cup (180 mL) freshly grated parmesan cheese
- black pepper and additional truffle or smoked salt, to taste
- Put the dried porcini mushrooms in a broad, shallow bowl and pour hot water over top. Let soak for 20 minutes while you prepare other ingredients, then remove the mushrooms one at a time from the dish, squeezing excess moisture back into the dish.
- Reserve the ‘mushroom water’ for cooking the rice and chop the rehydrated porcinis into small pieces. Set aside.
- Combine the mushroom water and chicken broth in a small saucepan on the stove. Keep warm over medium-low heat.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Heat then add the cubed squash; cook, stirring often until squash is just tender (test with the tip of a sharp knife) and beginning to caramelize – about 8 minutes. Transfer cooked squash to a bowl and set aside.
- In the same skillet, add another tablespoon each of the butter and olive oil and melt over medium heat. Add the chopped fresh mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon of thyme leaves and the garlic. Saute for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are softened, have released their moisture and are beginning to brown. Transfer to the bowl with the cooked squash and set aside.
- In a large, heavy-duty pot, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and reserved chopped porcini mushrooms along with 1/2 teaspoon of the truffle salt. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring often.
- Add rice to the pot and stir to coat well in the butter and oil mixture. Continue to stir the rice for 2 minutes so it gets a little toasted, then add the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the wine has evaporated.
- Ladle in some of the broth that’s been warming in the other pot; add just enough to cover the top of the rice. Reduce heat to medium and let the mixture simmer, uncovered. Keep an eye on it and add another ladleful of broth every time the level drops below the top of the rice, stirring to incorporate with each addition.
- If par-cooking and refrigerating till later, stop when you have about 3 ladlesful of broth left to add; refrigerate the remaining stock separately from the rice which has been spread on a sheet pan to cool in the fridge.
- When you are ready to add the final ladleful of warm stock, add the reserved cooked squash and cooked fresh mushrooms to the pot and stir gently to combine.
- Test rice for doneness; it should be tender but still have a little firmness, much like ‘al dente’ pasta. Heat up to 1/2 cup more broth or water if you feel the rice is not cooked to your tastes and add it in.
- Once the rice is cooked and almost all liquid has been absorbed, stir in the remaining fresh thyme leaves, half of the minced sage, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle each of black pepper and truffle salt. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
- Spoon the risotto into warmed bowls and sprinkle remaining sage and parmesan over top. Serve warm.
Makes 4 servings.