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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Asparagus and Dried Mushroom Risotto

As we work to draw down our pantry stockpile, we can't help noticing that we have a lot of rice: basmati, jasmine, sushi, black, brown, brown basmati, Arborio, wild rice (okay, nitpickers, that's technically not a rice, but we treat it that way). We also have a lot of dried mushrooms, including shiitakes and a "gourmet" mix from Costco that makes wonderful broth. The other night we decided to use some of these ingredients to make risotto. Risotto is a great way to give leftovers and pantry basics a fancy, delicious new incarnation.

The recipe we found, from Gourmet via Epicurious, called for fresh asparagus and shiitakes, but we wanted to use what we had at home: leftover roasted asparagus and dried mushrooms. We wondered whether these substitutions would work—would the mushrooms be too chewy, the asparagus too condensed?

We discovered that risotto is very forgiving: the hot broth softened up the mushrooms and asparagus, which retained just enough bite to be interesting. We were so happy with this experimental dish that we will definitely make it again.

Asparagus and Dried Mushroom Risotto

1/2 ounce (a very generous half-cup) dried shiitake mushrooms
6 cups broth (you can use chicken or vegetable; we used vegetable mixed with the mushroom-soaking liquid)
1 cup roasted asparagus, cut into inch-long pieces
1 T. olive oil
3 T. unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Soak the mushrooms in one cup of hot water. Sliced mushrooms will be soft in about 15 minutes; whole mushrooms will take longer. Once they are soft, squeeze out the excess water, chop them into small pieces, and set aside, reserving the soaking liquid.
2. While the mushrooms are soaking, add the mushroom liquid to the broth, bring it to a boil, and leave it on simmer.
3. In a separate, good-size, heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil and two tablespoons of the butter. Cook the onion until soft, about three minutes.
4. Add the rice and stir it in the butter-and-onion mixture for a couple of minutes. With the heat on medium, add the wine and stir until it is absorbed by the rice.
5. Add one cup of the hot broth and stir until it is absorbed by the rice. Keep adding the simmering broth in half-cup increments, waiting until it's almost absorbed before adding the next ladle-ful. When the rice is done—creamy but retaining a slight bite—you're done.
6. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in half a cup of cheese, the last tablespoon of butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the asparagus and chopped mushrooms, and set aside for a minute so the vegetables can heat through.
7. If the risotto seems too thick, add a little hot broth to thin. Serve with the remaining parmesan on the side.

Serves four.

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