Mushroom Risotto – for beauty and perspective


I recently went to the dermatologist about what turned out to be a perfectly ordinary freckle. She tool out a lens, and looked closely at every inch of my skin, making notes on a clip board before deciding that I was, basically, fine.

“Though we could definitely improve the appearance of these enlarged pores on your forefingers,” she said. Almost in passing.

What enlarged pores on my forefingers? I had never noticed them before. Wasn’t that just what a forefinger looked like?

“I think a laser treatment would really improve the look!”

Back at my desk, back at my computer, suddenly all I could see my forefingers, pistoning up and down on the keys. Forefinger pores danced before my eyes, getting larger and larger. By the end of my email, my fingers looked basically polka dotted.

I made the appointment.

“Are you insane?” My friends wondered.

“No.” I told them. I have enlarged forefinger pores and I am going to get them lasered. Look.”

“I have those too,” said Katherine. “They’re not enlarged. That’s just what a forefinger looks like.”

“I don’t know,” Libby was unconvinced. “Mine look like that. Maybe I should get mine done too. Is that a thing we need to worry about now?”

A half hour stirring a risotto, and a healthy dose of perspective later I can confidently assert, no. It is not.

Mushroom Risotto

It’s not only the gentle stirring that makes risotto feel like kitchen therapy – radio on, or music on, glass of white wine in hand. This risotto is, in the nicest possible way, beige. It’s a very relaxing, unchallenging color, smooth, creamy, plain, almost austere, very minimalist-ly beautiful.

1 cup Arborio rice
3 cups hot chicken stock
1 cup white wine
1 orange
1’4 cup diced pancetta (or a couple of rashers of bacon chopped up into lardons)
1 medium onion
2 – 3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
500g wild mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic
1 sprig thyme
salt and pepper
  • Preheat the oven to 425f
  • Brush the mushrooms to clean them, and slice any really large ones in half or quarters.
  • Put the mushrooms into an oven dish with 1 tbsp of butter and a splash of olive oil. Add the thyme sprig, grate over the garlic and the zest from about half the orange (zest the whole orange and set the rest aside).
  • Season well, then cover with foil and bake for 15 mins.
  • Get started on the risotto (more detailed notes can be found here)
  • Dice the onion, season well and fry gently with the pancetta in a little splash of olive oil until soft
  • Add the rice and stir in the heat to toast lightly. Pour in the wine and the juice from the orange, and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan into the sauce
  • Start stirring. Add stock a ladle full at a time, keep the heat low and stir it in gently until the rice absorbs it. Add another ladle full.
  • When the mushroom timer goes off, turn off the heat, and leave the mushrooms in the oven out of the way to say warm.
  • Keep going for about 20 – 25 mins, until the rice is soft but still has a little bite, and the stock is gone (you may need slightly more, in which case, hot water is fine). The risotto should have a texture somewhere between a fork and a spoon.
  • Stir in the rest of the butter and most of the cheese. The risotto should become really creamy. Stir in the mushrooms, and let the risotto sit off the heat for a couple of minutes to relax. It seems strange but it makes a difference.
  • Scatter the reserved cheese over the top, along with a little of the reserved zest.
  • Serve in warmed bowls.
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