risotto Tag

The shroomiest mushroom risotto, without breaking bank

when powdered and browned in hot grease, dried shiitake’s exponentially multiplied surface areas darken and deepen boundlessly, releasing every molecules of that shroominess that would otherwise cost you a limb

If you have ever found yourself frozen in front of the mushroom isles at your local Whole Foods Market, cold sweats dripping down as you struggle to understand how on earth could a fungi — categorically no different than the molds crawling underneath your drywalls — be charging sometimes more than $50 per pound, while feeling utterly shitty about yourself, well, this recipe is for you:

Poor man’s mushroom risotto.

I’m speaking from a place of deep empathy.  Having been born as a relentlessly cheap human being, I understand the hurt when even a dickhead-shaped vegetation that lives off of decomposed matters could take one look at me, and smirk.  A brainless, judgy brainless sponge that grows next to if not on top of rotten shits, thinks I’m not good enough.  Who do they think they are?  By the way I’m not talking about the cheap mushrooms like White Buttons, pfff... who do you think I am?  I’m talking about the delicious ones, the truly robust, earthy, and nutty-flavored mushrooms with Elvish names, Chanterelle, Lactarius Indigo, Blue Foot, that grows in an enchanted woods with the fairies and talk to birds.  Those fuckers.  I ain’t sayin’ it’s a gold digger; but it ain’t messin’ with no broke n-beeeep.

Can you tell this is personal?

So for years, or more accurately since the 24 heads of dried morel we obtained from our France road trip had run dry, I’ve been secretly doing this.

Dried shiitake mushroom.

Cheap, common, found almost wherever Asian groceries stand and season-neutral.  Why is it generally much more affordable than other varieties of dried mushrooms such as porcini, morels and etc?  No idea (psst, because it’s Asian).  But I can assure you that flavor-wise, it does not dwarf in comparison.  In fact, it has been aiding the flavors and complexities of a huge number of Asian dishes, soups and stews, precisely because of its high natural-occuring MSG and a deep, musky, earthy aroma.  But regrettably, typically cooked whole or in slices, its true potential has yet to be realized by the general public.

It wants to be, no, needs to be, powered.

Think about it.  Remained as a whole, or slices, or even finely diced, the mushrooms are only allowed a limited exposure to direct heat and caramelization.  But when powdered and browned in hot grease, its exponentially multiplied surface areas darken and deepen boundlessly, releasing every molecules of that shroominess that would otherwise cost you a limb.  As a supporting role, usually a couple tablespoons will suffice.  But in the case of carrying an entire Italian culinary staple, say risotto, to whole new height, I suggest we go to town.

Almost 1/2 cup of shiitake mushroom powder will fry slowly in chicken fat, as transformative as the making of a dark roux, until its pale brown complexion takes on the color between cinnamon and dark chocolate, until its faintly woody aroma expands into a pungency that is almost spicy and sweet.  All this magic is then extracted by the chicken broth, and delivered into every single grains of arborio rice in a silky, totally un-grainy finish.  Although you may deem the appearance of fish sauce and soy sauce as out of place, but they only amplify and compliments the shroominess without making an entrance.  I urge you not to swap.

So there.  Go buy expensive dickheads if you want to be like that.  But me?  I’m sticking with this.

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CLAM CHOWDER RISOTTO W/ CELERY PROSCIUTTO SALT

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CLAM CHOWDER IS A FOOD THAT SPEAKS NOSTALGIA, THE KIND THAT WANTS ME TO REMEMBER SOMETHING… EVEN IF THE MEMORY ISN’T MINE.  IT’S A POWERFUL STORY-TELLER.

Today is my favourite day.  Veterinarian day + Monday + The-day-I-woke-up-to-an-empty-coffee-jar day.  Pure.  Awesomeness.

So yes, I did.  I selfishly spent every God-damn beautiful hours of this day chuckling at waffle-coned dogs through a glass-wall, powered by a state of mind as sharp as a pile of shredded cheddar cheese melting inside a hamburger.  And at exactly 6:30 pm, realised that I’ve left very little time to tell you about this risotto I made last weekend.  It’s my fault.  The risotto doesn’t deserve this neglect.  In fact, this clam chowder risotto with prosciutto-salt deserves every autumn-loving and nostalgic-holic’s attention.  Thing is, I’ve always thought of clam chowders as a food that speaks nostalgias, the kind that wants me to remember something, in an almost eager manner, trying to bring out memories even if it isn’t mine.  Even though I was never that girl standing on a beach of grey sands, the cold waves, that late summer, that blue wooden bench and the knitted cardigan…, the soup wants me, no, it needs me to feel like one when I eat it.  Clam chowder is a powerful story-teller.

But again, people who are truly nostalgic about clam chowders probably wouldn’t do what I did, replacing potatoes with equally starchy arborio rice and chewy farro, then instead of saltine crackers, a sprinkle of finely crushed crispy prosciutto and toasted caraway seeds.  What can I say, it felt almost natural to me, and even more amazing because now it tells a slightly different story.  Of what, I’m not quite sure yet.  I need to hear it a few more times for it to become words.  Perhaps a rocky mediterranean shore… a brownish tweed newsboy hat… that old sea-port market and the stain of espresso on the napkin.  Or perhaps I’m just hearing a food-coma.

How about you?  Have you heard any good stories from your table lately?

The beautiful brass dinner spoon is made by the amazing Ann Ladson.

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Improved Smoked Cheese Risotto

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I have a severe case of post-vacation depression. NOT that I don’t miss my kids achingly on each and every trip, and want to tell’em about places where they could potentially live in the next life where they’d be allowed into every eateries (woof!) and crumbs shops PATISERIES (woof! woooof!). But for reasons beyond me, they instead insist on residing in a city that I loathe full-heartedly. Not an uncommon problem among modern parents I guess. So every time I return home, my kitchen becomes a laboratory for recreating things that I crave from each trip to ease the symptoms (which, if left untreated, could develop into doomsday-scale meltdowns). The shwarma sandwich from Paris. The laksa from Malaysia. Bonci’s pizza bianca from Rome. Oh, right. Rome. Well, about that… I haven’t told you everything yet.

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