Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mushroom and kale risotto

Risotto is a labor of love, which I guess makes it fitting for this time of year. It usually involves standing over a stove and stirring the pot's contents for a good half hour. As someone who makes rice by sticking everything in a rice cooker without a second thought, I've always been a bit baffled by the effort involved in making rice the Italian way. But the results are always worth it -- having a creamy, rich, and flavorful pot of rice instantly soothes my tired stirring arm.

I made a butternut squash risotto last winter, but it was so rich that it was hard to eat for multiple meals during the week. This mushroom and kale risotto is the exact opposite. It derives its flavor from the mushroom broth and is lightened by all the vegetables, which offer a nice contrast in texture to the rice. There is also less cheese involved -- just enough to contribute to the dish's creaminess. And for garnish, I used a bit of fresh thyme, which added a hint its fresh, citrous-y flavor to tie the mushrooms' earthiness and the savory Parmesean together.


Mushroom and kale risotto
Loosely adapted from Marcella Hazan

I used a homemade mushroom stock, which was made from a week's worth of leftover vegetables and dried porcini mushrooms (making and freezing stock is a great way to using up leftover vegetables). You can also use a commercial mushroom or chicken stock, but make sure to taste it first to  make sure you like it and it's not too salty. 

6 cups of homemade or low-sodium packaged mushroom or chicken stock
2 tbs butter
2 tbs olive oil
3 medium-sized shallots, finely minced
1 lb mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
3 cups of loosely packed kale (about half a bunch), washed thoroughly, stemmed, and roughly chopped
1 3/4 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cups dry white wine
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh thyme, to garnish

Heat stock in a medium saucepan and keep it at a low simmer while cooking the risotto. In a large and heavy-bottomed pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter and the oil over medium high heat, cook shallots until translucent, and add the rice so the grains are coated well with oil. Add mushrooms and kale and cook until they are tender. Add the wine and reduce by half.

Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and cook until stock is completely absorbed. Repeat until the rice is tender (you might not need all 6 cups of broth, depending on how soft you like your rice). Start tasting the rice after around 20 minutes for doneness to make sure you don't add too much liquid and end up with a runny risotto!

When rice is 1 or 2 minutes from being fully cooked, stir in the remaining butter and all the cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately, topped with a bit of grated Parmesean and thyme leaves.

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