For a while there I was starting to believe that the 2020 Mushroom Season was going to go down like the rest of the year: bleak, depressing and not very exciting. Thankfully, we managed to have a couple good soakings of Winter rains and the fungi have started to dot the landscape in numbers at least slightly better than last year’s season.
Porcini were some of the first to arrive, as they usually are. So far their numbers have not been a disappointment at all. Followers of this blog and my shenanigans on Instagram will recall that I am a hardcore fan of dehydrating every single Porcini I can get my hands on. However, this year I wanted to try something a little different. Mostly I wanted to revisit my old, first recipe on this blog for Barley Risotto with Porcini Twice Two Ways. I always thought there were more direct routes to get to a tasty Porcini risotto than what I did there.
The best Carnaroli, smoked with cherry wood for 14 hours: the result is a rice with soft woody notes, intense on the nose but delicate on the palate.
But that “aha!” moment I was looking for in Porcini was instead found on the shelves of our local Surf Market. One day while making our weekly grocery run in town I came face to face with a curious canister of rice that was smoked over cherry wood for 14 hours. While indeed smoky, the Carnaroli rice is hardly a loud man in the room about it. The rice’s soft woody notes are indeed delicate on the palate but—more importantly—they would be the ideal match for a rare batch of fresh, wild Porcini that were not predestined to meet a different end in my dehydrator.
Smoky Porcini Risotto
PREP TIME: 25 MINUTES ● COOK TIME: 35 MINUTES ● SERVES 4-6
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Maldon finishing salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Wine: Seghesio Mendocino Ridge Zinfandel
Wine: La Follette Pinot Noir
- If you have not already done so, make the Porcini Broth.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, dry fry the Porcini until all the moisture is removed from the mushrooms. Pour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coast.
- Add the parsley, garlic and ½ teaspoon of the salt to the pan and continue to cook until the herbs become fragrant and the garlic is softened but not burned. Stir often!
- Carefully add the white wine and stir until most of the liquid is cooked off. Remove the pan from heat and set aside.
- Grab another large skillet or soup pot and warm it over medium heat. When the pan is warm, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil.
- Toss in the chopped shallots and remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and cook until the shallots are translucent.
- Add in the smoked Carnaroli rice and stir until the grains are well coated with olive oil and everything seems more or less mixed.
- Begin to add the broth, a ladleful at a time, stirring after each addition and waiting until the broth is absorbed by the rice before adding the next. Repeat this process until the rice reaches a texture to your liking or until all of the broth has been used.
- Stir in your seasoned, sautéed fresh Porcini, mix evenly then remove from heat.
- Spoon your risotto onto plates or bowls. Garnish with a drizzle (or glug) of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and a smattering of Italian parsley leaves. Serve immediately.
Wild Porcini are just an absolutely smashing pairing for that smoked Carnaroli rice, but its not like they grow on trees. Unless you live in my neck of the woods along the Sonoma Coast or have an amazing store like Far West Fungi nearby they might be completely out of your reach. If that should be the case I’d recommend purchasing the best cultivated or store-bought mushrooms you can get your hands on. The more “exotic” the mushrooms you make use of the better this risotto will turn out. Shiitake, Maitake, Oysters, King Trumpets, Beech or a mixture of any/all of these would still produce a seriously guest-able risotto that you can be proud to serve.