Fall Woodlands Risotto
My first taste of the newest vintage of our Thatcher Bay Vineyard Merlot released a cascade of memories of fall days during my student years spent searching the nearby woodlands for wild huckleberries and fall mushrooms. Our sacks filled with local bounty, we would return to the kitchen, where Mrs. G. would transform our harvest into homemade huckleberry pies and a mushroom risotto. Though I never thought to ask the recipe, I remember it was a simple dish- mushrooms, some herbs, and cheese.
Mrs. G’s recipe for mushroom risotto is lost in time, but I did come across a recipe that is so similar in taste and texture that, with a little alteration, bears a remarkable resemblance. It is adapted from a recipe in Jody Williams’s cookbook, Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. She calls it Risotto Sotto Bosco, or “Forest’s Floor.” I substitute homemade vegetable broth and red wine (instead of water and white wine) to create an earthier flavor, and call it Fall Woodlands Risotto in honor of Mrs. G.
½ stick of unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced
2 firm fresh porcini mushrooms, sliced
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced
leaves from a small sprig of fresh rosemary, minced
1 cup risotto rice
½ cup of dry red wine
salt to taste
3 – 4 cups boiling homemade vegetable stock (or chicken if you can’t do homemade)
½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
perhaps a little Brie cheese to finish
small handful of fresh blueberries (or huckleberries)
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, porcinis, and herbs and cook (stirring) until just softened and beginning to turn golden brown (about 4 minutes). Add the rice and cook until it turns opaque (perhaps a minute or two). Add the red wine to the pot and cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Add a pinch of salt and 1 cup of the boiling stock and cook, stirring continually, until the water has nearly evaporated. Repeat the process with a second cup of stock, and when that has nearly evaporated add the third cup. Cook, stirring, until this last addition of stock has nearly evaporated.
The rice should be just cooked through, but still have a bit of a bite. If it’s too undercooked, add ¼ cup of the reserved stock. Turn off the heat and mix in the remaining butter along with the cheese. Fold in the berries, and season the risotto to taste with salt.
Serve immediately, perhaps with a small slice of Brie to accent the earthiness of the mushrooms.
Wine Suggestion: Occasio Founder’s Merlot
Jody Williams, Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, Grand Central Lifestyle (New York/Boston). 2014