I ordered an ounce of white winter truffle and wondered what I could possibly come up with to complement this delicacy. White winter truffles, also known as Alba truffles, are not meant to be cooked but simply shaved thinly on the dish that would showcase its aroma and taste. There are many ways to handle a truffle; and I’ll admit that I am no authority on this. One thing I do know though is that you do not want to wash it under running water. When the truffle arrived, I had the “hungry” hubby wrap it with paper towel and then wrap it again with foil; then tucked away in the vegetable bin of my refrigerator. The pungent smell of the truffle filled the refrigerator, just wonderful! I knew though that with each passing minute, the efficacy of the truffle was diminishing.
I eventually decided on a simple risotto of wild rice and dried mushroom. My preferred method for cooking risotto is from the “Zuni Café” cookbook. Judy Rodgers takes the mystery out of this esteemed dish and gives the amateur cook the confidence to cook it. Her recipe included butternut squash, but the “hungry” hubby has an aversion to this vegetable except when pureed into soup, so I left it out of the recipe. If you want to include it, you need to cook it beforehand and add it at the end with the mushrooms and wild rice.
¼ cup wild rice
¾ cup water
4 tbs unsalted butter
About 6 ounces sliced wild mushrooms, such as porcini, chanterelles, or hedgehogs
½ cup finely diced yellow onions (2 ounces)
2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
4 to 5 cups chicken stock
About ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Place the wild rice and water in a 2-quart or smaller saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat and stir in salt to taste. Adjust the heat to achieve a nearly imperceptible simmer and cover tightly. Cook until tender, about 45 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the water has not begun to boil hard. The rice will not cook perfectly evenly; the majority should be splitting along the length of the grain, and as many as one-third of them may spread wide open and curl before the whole lot is tender. Drain in a strainer and capture the excess cooking water. You should have about ¾ cup cooked rice and a few tablespoons of flavorful cooking water.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a10- or 12 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, salt lightly, and cook, stirring or tossing a few times, until they color slightly, 3 to 6 minutes, depending on how wet the mushrooms are. You should just begin to smell their nutty aroma. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside.
Warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and a few pinches of salt. Cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are tender and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the risotto rice and stir until the grains are warm and coated with fat. Add the wild rice cooking water and 2 cups of the stock. Adjust the heat to bring it to and maintain a gentle simmer, then stir as needed until it has been mostly absorbed. Add another cup of stock and do likewise. The risotto should look like a shiny porridge of pearls. Taste: the rice will be hard and a little raw tasting. Correct the satiny liquid for salt.
Stir the mushrooms and wild rice into the risotto, then add another cup or so of stock and stir as need until just absorbed. Taste again, checking the flavor and doneness. Add additional stock a few spoonfuls at a time until the rice is al dente; the squash ought to be nutty-tender as well.
Stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano, off the heat.
Choose good stock to cook risotto in because it will taste only as good as the ingredients you put into it. It’s best to use Italian Carnaroli or Arborio rice whose brand lists its harvest date; a recent harvest has better flavor. The pan you use is just as important. It is better to use a deep saucepan , 2-quart for up to 1 ½ cups of rice or 4-quart for up to 3 ½ cups of rice, because the less surface area the rice is exposed to, the more you can control the evaporation which promotes even cooking. Others advocate using only simmering stock, but I have had much success with using cold stock, the caveat of which is just an increase of cooking time; in addition, this will mean fewer pots on the stove and pots to clean.
In the beginning stages of the risotto, adding stock is not a problem since it gets simply absorbed very quickly. When the risotto is almost done, it is best to add the liquid a few tablespoons at a time. To test for doneness, take a bite of the grain and if you see a tiny white speck at the middle you can stop adding liquid and turn off the heat. The risotto will continue cooking. Upon serving, just add a splash of liquid to give it a wavelike quality.
Using this method has always resulted in a creamy satiny risotto with the grains still al dente.
I also decided to sauté some shrimp and scallop to accompany the risotto, you do not need much at all since it is very satisfying.
Shave the truffle generously or do not use at all. I have discovered that it has to be almost wilted by the heat of the risotto for it to release maximum flavor.
This is my entry to Hay Hay it’s Donna Day#8 hosted at il Cavoletto de Bruxelles .