I believe that making risotto is not something to be rushed. Sure, there are many instructional Youtube videos that contradict this but it's best to take a bit of time and care into making this classic Italian dish.
Mushroom is one of the more popular risotto dishes but I have never come across it paired with saffron. The flavour base is produced by finely chopping onions, garlic and carrots then adding bacon lardons which add saltiness and also provide that excellent brown frying residue that sticks to the pan adding unparalleled flavour. The asparagus counts as one of your five a day and two batches of shiitake mushrooms, one incorporated into the main body of the rice and one fried until crisp as a garnish, add an earthiness that complements the unique taste of saffron. The finishing touch is adding freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and allowing the dish to settle before serving. All in it could take up to an hour and a half so grab yourself a beer and enjoy the process.
- Bacon Lardons 250g
- Shiitake Mushrooms 240g (Two Packets)
- Arborio Rice 2 Cups
- Asparagus 100g
- Saffron large pinch
- Onion 1
- Carrots 2
- Parmigiano Reggiano 150g
- Garlic 4 Cloves
- Chicken Stock Pot 2
- White Wine 1 Glass
- Water for the stock
- Butter 1 Tablespoon
- Celery Salt Half a Teaspoon
1) The first step is to finely chop the onion and carrot then saute slowly at a low temperature with a small knob of butter for around 10 minutes. You are not aiming to colour or caramalise the onion but to cook until translucent.
2) Next finely chop the asparagus into inch long pieces and add to the pan. Cook for a further 5 minutes until soft and remove the contents of the pan to a bowl and set aside.
3) Crank up the heat of the pan to max and add the bacon lardons. You are aiming to get the lardons as crisp as possible and render as much fat as possible.
4) Once crisp finely chop one packet of the mushrooms and fry along with the bacon for 3/4 minutes.
5) Re-Add the vegetables back to the pan along with the lardons and mushrooms and mix well. Add the rice and fry for 3 minutes which will toast and add a nutty flavour to the dish.
6) The next step is probably the most crucial when making risotto. The idea is to consistently stir the rice to the point that it starts to release its starch which gives the dish its signature creamy consistency. If you have premade stock then all the better but if not simply add two chicken stock pots along with a pinch of saffron to a pot of simmering water.
7) Before adding the stock add the glass of white wine and stir. You are aiming to keep the risotto quite loose by adding a ladle of stock every few minutes. It's this cycle of adding stock, stirring and letting the rice absorb the liquid that will eventually transform the dish into the oozy, creamy and sumptuuos final dish. This process should take around 45 minutes if your cooking on low heat and take your time, which you should!
8) Once the rice is cooked al dente grate the cheese and stir into the rice with a small knob of butter. Place the lid on the pan or cover while you cook the second packet of mushrooms.
9) For the final step of the dish I fried the remaining mushrooms for a garnish and also provide a crispy texture. To do so finely slice the mushrooms as thinly as possible and cook on high heat in a small knob of butter. After 2 minutes remove and place on some kitchen paper to absorb the excess fat which will also help them become as crispy as possible.
Serve on a warm plate or bowl and garnish with the crispy mushrooms and a sprinkling of parsley (if you remember to buy!).