Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

I’ve been receiving Cook’s Illustrated magazine for more than a decade thanks to a yearly Christmas subscription from my parents. I don’t throw away the old issues because I keep going back to them. The recipes never fail. In fact, they are usually sensational.

Last month, I cooked several recipes from the September/October issues. They all were winners.

  • Mediterranean Braised Green Beans (2012)
  • Stir-fried Noodles with Pork aka Pork Lo Mein (2008)
  • Crisp Oven-Fried Fish (2008)
  • Mushroom Risotto (2003)

I decided to plan some meals around Cook’s Illustrated recipes after their Eggplant Parmesan (January 2004) turned out to be the best I’ve ever had. I was bold enough to make a few minor changes to that recipe and will blog about it soon.

When I picked up a few packages of shiitake mushrooms for less than a buck apiece, I decided it was time to make the Cook’s Illustrated mushroom risotto.


Oh, you need more of a description than swoon? Deep, rich, earthy, creamy, comforting deliciousness. How about that?

If you’ve never made risotto because you’re intimidated by the idea, don’t be. It’s really not that hard. But I understand your hesitancy.

Years ago, my friend Gwen and I decided it was about time we took on risotto. Being Virgos, we hovered over that pot and, like a tag team, took turns stirring because god forbid if we stopped, all would be ruined! We fussed and questioned and I don’t even recall how it came out. I’m sure it was fine.

Don’t let risotto scare you. This recipe is long but the steps are easy. And don’t worry, you don’t have to continuously stir. Pour yourself a glass of wine, get chopping, and enjoy yourself. The reward, trust me, will be divine.

Mushroom Risotto | Grabbing the Gusto

Mushroom Risotto

You’ll need kitchen twine, medium saucepan, fine-mesh strainer, medium oven-safe bowl, and large saucepan or Dutch oven.

  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed in strainer
  • 3 -1/2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3 -1/2 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-1/4 pounds of shiitake, cremini, and oyster mushrooms (or whatever you have, but try not to use white button mushrooms), discard shiitake and oyster stems, cut mushrooms into 1/2” or so slices
  • 2 medium onions, chopped fine (2 cups)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 pound Arborio rice (2-1/8 cups)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)

Gather the bay leaves, thyme, and parsley sprigs together into a bundle. Tie it with kitchen twine. Add the bundled herbs, porcini, chicken stock, soy sauce, and water to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low or medium-low (depending on your stove) and simmer until the porcini are softened and fully hydrated, about 15 minutes.

Take out and trash/compost the herb bundle. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl. You’ll end up with about 6-1/2 cups of strained broth. Return the broth to the saucepan and keep it warm. Finely mince the porcini and set them aside for later.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, add the shiitake/cremini/oyster mushrooms, 1 cup onions, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are well browned, about 7 minutes. Make a well in middle of mushrooms, add garlic, a bit more butter or olive oil, if needed, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir the garlic into the mushrooms and transfer all of it to an oven-safe bowl. Keep the bowl warm in the oven.

Off the heat, add 1/4 cup water to the skillet and scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon or spatula. Pour this liquid from the skillet into the saucepan with the broth.

Heat 3 tablespoons butter in the pan over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add remaining 1 cup onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and translucent, about 9 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the grains’ edges are transparent, about 4 minutes.

Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice absorbs the wine. Add porcini and 3-1/2 cups of the broth and cook, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed, 9 to 11 minutes. Stir in an additional 1/2 cup broth every 2 to 3 minutes until the rice is cooked through but grains are still somewhat firm at center, 10 to 12 minutes. I had about 2/3 cup (maybe) of broth left over.

Stir in remaining tablespoon butter, then the mushrooms (and any accumulated juices), and Parmesan. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; serve immediately.

Save any unused broth and add it to the leftover risotto before refrigerating – this will help retain some creaminess for leftovers tomorrow.

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