Wild Mushroom Risotto

Let's Talk About Umami


Mushrooms get a bad rap. I get that they're earthy and they have a weird texture, but the truth is that they are amazing. They are versatile and won't overpower a dish. They absorb the other flavors of any dish they are added to, while also deepening the flavor of that same dish.

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Mushrooms are also a great source of umami, which is the magical and mysterious 5th kind of flavor (after sweet, salty, bitter and sour). Get ready to be educated. Scientifically, umami refers to glutamate, which is a type of amino acid. But I much prefer to call it magical and mysterious. Umami punches up the flavor of every dish, making it more satisfying and more well-rounded. It's often difficult for omnivores to try to eat vegetarian and still feel full because we are so used to eating animal and fish proteins (most of which are good sources of umami). Other examples of umami include: Parmigiano Reggiano (which is also in this risotto), soy sauce, tomatoes, kombu, bonito, sardines, and pork. There are others but these are the most concentrated sources of umami. Umami is a Japanese word, because the man who gave the concept a name was from Japan. You may also notice that Kombu (giant sea kelp), bonito and sardines are commonly used ingredients in Japan. They figured out a while ago that a few dashes of bonito flakes on top of a meal is much more than just a garnish! With very little effort, those little flakes punch up the flavor bigtime. I have a feeling that bonito flakes are another weird ingredient that is going to become less foreign to us in a few years!

Also, as a side note, Teddy and I are going to Japan this week and I am soooooo looking forward to it. If you've been to Japan, I'd love to hear some tips and your favorite parts of your trip!! We are a little nervous about the food and the language barrier, but even so, I couldn't be more excited.

The leek in this recipe is optional, but I like that it adds a bit of color to an otherwise blah-looking recipe. That's okay, though. I'm pretty sure it's scientific fact that ugly food is more tasty.

INGREDIENTS

9 1/2 Tbs. butter
1/2 - 1 lb. fresh wild mushrooms (Shiitake, chanterelle, porcini, etc. Regular ole button mushrooms will work as well)
6 cups chicken broth
3/4 cups finely chopped leek (the white and light green parts only)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup dry white vermouth
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

DIRECTIONS

Wash and cut up the mushrooms. Also prep the leek and shallots, but store them in a separate bowl.

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In a large saucepan, melt 8 Tbs. butter over medium high.

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Add the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt.
Saute until tender and starting to brown, 3-4 minutes. Set aside.

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Melt the remaining butter in a large saucepan over medium low. Add the leek, shallots and salt and saute 4-5 minutes.

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Add the arborio rice and increase heat to medium. Stir 3-4 minutes.

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Add wine and vermouth and stir 1 minute.

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Cook the broth into the rice one cup at a time. Stir continuously and add the next cup when the first has been mostly absorbed by the rice.

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When you have 2 cups of broth left, also add the mushrooms.

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Once the risotto is finished cooking, stir in 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Then, serve and enjoy!

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INGREDIENTS

9 1/2 Tbs. butter
1/2 - 1 lb. fresh wild mushrooms (Shiitake, chanterelle, porcini, etc. Regular ole button mushrooms will work as well)
6 cups chicken broth
3/4 cups finely chopped leek (the white and light green parts only)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup dry white vermouth
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

DIRECTIONS

Melt 8 Tbs. butter over medium high. Add the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt. Saute until tender and starting to brown, 3-4 minutes. Set aside. Melt the remaining butter in a large saucepan over medium low. Add the leek, shallots and salt and saute 4-5 minutes. Add the arborio rice and increase heat to medium. Stir 3-4 minutes. Add wine and vermouth and stir 1 minute. Cook the broth into the rice every few minutes, adding 1 cup at a time. When you have 2 cups left, also add the mushrooms. Once the risotto is finished cooking, stir in 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano.