Sunday, March 11, 2012

Porcini Mascarpone Risotto

Hi everyone! This is Sara writing a guest post about my house specialty, risotto. I know there's a certain fear factor that people have when attempting risotto- yes, it takes a while and yes, there's lots of stirring, but if I can make it well, anyone can! For me, making risotto is a zen-like experience- an hour in front of the stove by myself, chopping, stirring, tasting and watching the arborio plump up. It also helps to drink a glass of whatever wine you are putting into the dish!

I like making it now, but my first attempt at risotto was an unqualified disaster. It was back when Megan and I lived in Somerville and I was not exactly a practiced cook. Ok, I was a terrible cook. I wanted to make a nice dinner as a surprise, and followed a pumpkin risotto recipe exactly as it was written. I didn't taste the risotto until it was already out of the pot and in bowls, so I didn't realize that I hadn't put in nearly enough liquid until it was too late. The arborio was hard as a rock! We had to throw out the whole thing, and I was so disappointed. That was the beginning of my mission to become an excellent risotto maker.

This recipe is a family favorite, and came from Cooking Light magazine. I have tweaked things a little over time, based on some cooking chemistry that I've learned (mostly from TV!) Sometimes when making this dish, I noticed that the shallots took on a harsh, almost bitter taste. I switched to using a bit of butter to saute them in, instead of olive oil or cooking spray, and that made a huge difference. I'm sure it's less healthy, but much tastier! Also, I never understood why risotto recipes had you toast the rice before adding the liquid. This question was answered by Lidia Bastianich on one of her shows- apparently initially toasting the arborio allows it to absorb more liquid and get that creamy consistency. And one last risotto tip- you are always going to need more liquid than the recipe calls for, so plan ahead!

Original Inspiration: Cooking Light
Serving Size: 4
WW: ?


1 1/2 cups boiling water 
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1/2 ounce) 
1 (14-ounce) can less-sodium beef broth (didn't have any tonight, so I used mushroom broth- worked well!)
1 tbs butter1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3/4 cup chopped shallots 
2 garlic cloves, minced 
1/2 cup dry white wine 
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
1/4 cup (1 ounce) mascarpone cheese 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme 
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine 1 1/2 cups boiling water and mushrooms; let stand 10 minutes or until soft. Drain through a colander over a bowl. Reserve soaking liquid; chop mushrooms.
  2. Bring reserved soaking liquid and broth to a simmer in a small saucepan (do not boil). Keep broth mixture warm over low heat.
  3. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter. Add rice, shallots, and garlic to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add wine; cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes).
  4. Add 1 cup broth mixture to rice mixture; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until the liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring occasionally. Add remaining broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring occasionally until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next (about 25 minutes total). Add mushrooms, Parmigiano-Reggiano and mascarpone cheeses, thyme, salt, and pepper; stir gently just until cheeses melt. Serve warm.