I will never forget Valentine’s Day 2006. I was pregnant with our first child, and according to my doctor, my due date was between February 13th and 16th. Since Valentine’s Day fell within the pending time frame, my husband and I decided that ordering takeout from our favorite restaurant seemed like a sensible thing to do.
The food arrived quickly that night, and much to my surprise, so did my contractions! Although we didn’t have a chance to finish dinner (the food was still in the fridge when we came back from the hospital!), our sweet bundle of joy entered the world just a few hours after cupid’s day of love came to a close.
It’s almost silly to look back on that night as romantic, but I assure you – it really was. Something about the togetherness we felt embarking into the unknown journey of parenthood made it incredibly special, and yes, very romantic.
Nothing sets the mood for love more than a beautiful Italian meal, and risotto has to be one of my favorites. The care and patience involved in its preparation cannot be underestimated – no rushing allowed! Stir slowly, simmer gently, and be present. A great risotto is indeed a labor of love.
For this recipe, you can use any mixture of wild mushrooms you like. I used a combination of shitake, portabello, and oyster mushrooms in the photos for this blog post. If you happen to have dried porcini or dried mixed mushrooms in your kitchen cupboard, you can infuse a small handful into the stock to add intensity to the flavor.
Wild Mushroom and Champagne Risotto
Serves two hungry people
- 450 grams (1 lb) mixed wild mushrooms, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, cut in half
- Fresh thyme (optional)
- 3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- Olive oil
- 1 small onion OR two shallots, finely chopped
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- ½ cup of champagne (you can substitute with white wine, omit the step if you don’t want to use alcohol)
- 6-7 cups of hot chicken stock
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano)
- Salt and fresh black pepper
Working in two batches, sauté half your mushrooms in one tablespoon of butter and a bit of olive oil over medium high heat. Once the mushrooms start to brown a bit, add half the clove of garlic and a pinch of salt. Discard the garlic a few minutes after cooking. Once mushrooms have browned, remove from heat and repeat the same process with the remaining mushrooms and ½ the garlic clove, adding more butter and olive oil if your pan is dry. Add a bit of fresh thyme to the mushrooms and set aside while you prepare the risotto.
Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a pot. The stock must be kept warm at all times while you are making the risotto (keep at a low simmer, do not boil).
Heat one tablespoon of butter in a large pan over medium-low heat (risotto expands, remember to use a pan that is big enough to hold all your ingredients).
Add the onions or shallots and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Cook until the onions are soft, without browning (about 4-5 minutes).
Add the risotto. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the edges of the rice are translucent.
Add the champagne and stir until the liquid has been absorbed.
Add ¾ cup of hot stock to the rice (I use a soup ladle to measure, stir until almost all the rice has been absorbed (about one minute). Continue adding your stock in ¾ cup increments, stirring until all the liquid has been absorbed before adding more stock. Remember to stir the rice continuously as this is what will add to the creaminess of the finished risotto.
Once your rice has been almost half cooked (about 10-12 minutes), add your sautéed mushrooms. You can reserve a few mushrooms for your garnish.
Continue cooking your risotto while adding ¾ cups of stock at a time for an additional 10-15 minutes, until rice is creamy and tender yet slightly firm when you bite into it.
Add ¼ cup parmigiano cheese and a bit more stock if the rice is dry (this keeps the sauce a bit loose). You can stir in a bit more butter at this stage if you want to make it super decadent!
Cover rice for two minutes. Spoon the rice into serving bowls. Add a few more reserved mushrooms for the garnish along with extra Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately and enjoy.
Copyright © 2016 Lidija’s Kitchen, including personal images taken by the author.