Risotto with Wild Mushrooms, Corn, Lemon and Creme Fraiche
I think of risotto as an all season dish. It’s beautiful in the spring with just picked fresh peas or asparagus, in the summer with summer squash, spinach and tomatoes, fall risotto with mushrooms and even pears, and winter risotto with winter squashes of various kinds. I also think of it as a “carrier” of flavour to a certain extent, taking on the flavours imparted by the stock, vegetables and herbs you cook it with. However, the rice has it’s own character and should not be overwhelmed by the ingredients or the cooking.
The most common rice for risotto is arborio rice, named after the town of Arborio in Piedmont, Italy. It’s the most readily available variety and tends to cook to a creamy consistency. There are other rice varieties that are used for risotto, some of which retain more of the grain texture through cooking. Rice contains two types of starch: amylose and amylopectin. The amylose starch keeps the grains separate longer as the rice is cooked, lending itself to a more al dente textured risotto. Long grain rice varieties are higher in amylose and short grain varieties are higher in amylopectin. If you wish to experiment with different types of rice for risotto keep in mind that the higher the amylose content, the more the rice will keep its shape during cooking, the lower the amylose content, the more creamy the risotto will be.
Some of the rice varieties to look for are:
- Carnaroli, (25% amylose) considered top risotto rice by chefs and the most widely used risotto rice in most of Italy.
- Nano (24% amylose), the prevalent risotto rice in Northeast Italy in the Veneto region.
- Baldo (20% amylose) producing good al dente yet creamy risotto
- Arborio (13% amylose), the most accessible variety producing a creamy risotto.
You can try your local Italian grocery store for rice varieties, or order it online through various vendors such as Fromaggio kitchen or Chef’s Shop and of course Amazon where you can practically get anything you want.
Risotto is simple to cook and requires only few ingredients in its preparation. Arborio rice, butter, onion, wine and a feature veggie if you use one and you have a risotto. Of course you can embellish and enhance: lemon zest, lemon juice, saffron, shallots, garlic, herbs, creme fraiche, cheeses etc., each adding a little more complexity and another level of flavour to the dish. I have posted a few risotto recipes, listed on the left under the Grain section. You can see them here and here and here.
The risotto recipe I am offering today was intended to feature the gorgeous wild mushrooms I bought from a professional forager who supplies local restaurants with salad greens, berries and mushrooms. I have been using them in a couple of different ways and this mushroom risotto is one of my favourites. The lobster mushrooms, bright orange on the outside, retain some of their colour during cooking and is visible as lovely reddish orange specks in the cooked rice. The lobster mushroom is a mushroom species serving as host to certain red fungus that covers and clings to it, changing and enhancing its flavour and over time even its shape.
For us a bowl of risotto is dinner, served with a crisp salad or sometimes another vegetable on the side. Once cup risotto makes 2 main course servings or 4 first course portions.
1 cup risotto rice (Arborio is the most accessible, see note above)
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup butter
2 shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 wild mushrooms: 2 lobster mushrooms, 2 chanterelles, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine, optional
1 cup corn kernels scraped from a fresh cob
grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/3 cup chopped chives or parsley
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup creme fraiche, optional
Place stock in a small pot and bring to a boil, reduce to low.
Melt butter in a 2 quart pot, add shallot and cook until softened.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant, being careful not to burn it.
Add the mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes, adding a little more butter if the mixture seems too dry.
Add rice to the onion-mushrooms mixture and stir to coat the grains with the butter, cooking about 2 minutes.
Add the wine and cook, stirring, until liquid evaporates.
Start adding a bit of stock, a 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well between each addition and waiting for the rice to absorb the liquid before adding more.
Add lemon zest and corn and continue adding stock slowly until rice grains are nice and plump. Taste it and stop when it is done. Cooking time should be at least 20 minutes or more.
When the risotto is cooked to your liking add 2 tablespoons creme fraiche, the chives and the grated cheese and stir, allowing the creme fraiche and cheese to melt into the risotto.
Taste and correct the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary.
Let the risotto rest and settle for a couple of minutes, then scoop it into individual serving bowls and serve warm, sprinkled with the remaining parsley, parmesan and lemon zest.