We’re fortunate to find many edible varieties of wild mushrooms right in our backyard and we use them to make Wild Mushroom Risotto.  Porcini, chanterelles and lactarius (great for texture), appear at more or less the same time each summer. When there is a bumper crop of mushrooms, I like to dry them in a slow oven. First I sort them by variety, something friend and mycologist Gerry Miller recommends. It gives you a second chance to look closely at what you’ve foraged in case any inedible types have snuck into your basket.  Then I slice and dry them overnight on baking sheets in a 250°F oven. Once you have dried and packaged them, you’ll know what you have.  Suillus luteus (Slippery Jack) and Suillus americanus (Slippery cap), for example, develop a more intense flavor when dried.  Something good to know when you’re rifling through the pantry in the dead of winter trying to make mushroom soup.

This was an especially fruitful haul.  In fact, it was a trophy day of mushroom hunting to find these huge Boletus edulus (porcini, cep or king bolete) a few minutes from the house.

Boletus edulis

Such a find deserves to be honored.  Sliced, sautéed in butter and served on toast is one good option. We also like to show off wild mushrooms in risotto. A combination of fresh and dried mushrooms is aromatic with a layered texture and goes well with game, which we serve in the fall. We add truffle juice, which we keep in the freezer just for this dish.  It is optional but really heightens the taste.  (Although it sounds radically indulgent, truffle juice is not that expensive. You can buy truffle juice from D’Artagnan or Urbani.) We never use truffle oil, the majority of which is made from manufactured flavors that obliterate the nuances of the real thing.

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Yield: 4 servings

This recipe makes four generous portions of risotto as a separate course or enough for six when served with another component. We like to serve it with grilled veal chops or roasted game.

If there is any risotto leftover, cool it then pack it into a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for a day or two or freeze it before using. When ready to use the risotto, place it in a slope-sided pan. Add a small amount of chicken stock to loosen it up then place it over low heat. Stir the risotto constantly until it warms through. The texture will change but none of the flavor will be lost. We also form leftover risotto into small cakes that can be pan fried in olive oil.

Ingredients

6 to 10 ounces fresh wild mushrooms such as ceps, chanterelles or cultivated portobellos
1 ounce dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup finely minced shallots, about 1 large
salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 to 5 cups homemade stock
1 ½ cups arborio rice
¼ to ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
3 Tablespoons black truffle juice, optional

Directions

  1. Trim the stems from the fresh mushrooms. Set them aside for stock making. Cut the mushrooms into thin slices. If necessary, quarter large caps before slicing them.
  2. Drain the dried mushrooms and reserve their soaking liquid for the risotto. Trim any tough bits from the dried mushrooms and discard. Set the mushrooms aside.
  3. Heat the olive oil and 2 Tablespoons of the butter in a large, slope-sided saucepan. Add the shallots and cook over medium high heat until pale golden in color.
  4. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms release some of their juices, for another 6 to 10 minutes.
  5. While the mushrooms cook, bring the broth and mushroom soaking liquid to a simmer in a separate pot.
  6. Add the risotto to the sautéed mushrooms and shallots. Cook for approximately 5 minutes to slightly toast the grains.
  7. Increase the heat to high and add 1 cup of stock to the rice. Cook stirring constantly until most of the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add liquid, a cup at a time as needed, stirring until the risotto is tender but still chewy, approximately 20 minutes. Add water should additional liquid be needed.
  8. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the remaining Tablespoon of butter and the cheese. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the truffle juice, if using it and serve immediately.