This recipe is part of a longer post, Lockdown Dinners.
I love risotto! Additionally, you can make it with any grain, not just rice. Here I use Farro, but barley, wheat berries, buckwheat, brown rice, wild rice… anything can work! Cooking times vary, just keep stirring and adding broth until the particular grain you’re using is ready.
This doubles easily! It’s so good, I usually make the double. But this will feed 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish.
1 cup farro
4-6 cups broth: Mushroom broth works best here, it adds even more wonderful mushroom flavor… and you can make mushroom broth fast! But vegetable or chicken broth are also fine.
2 packs of mushrooms (I like a mixture but white button are fine) or a nice sized bag of mixed mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, minced
diced pancetta (optional)
leaves from 5-6 thyme sprigs
3 T Port
1/2 cup white wine or dry vermouth
1/2 cup pecorino cheese (Parmesan is fine)
With any form of risotto, you will use two medium size pots. One pot in which to make the risotto and one pot to warm the broth that you will ladle into the risotto. Put these on two burners side by side on the stove.
– If you want Mushroom Broth: fill the broth pot 2/3 with water. Add some roughly chopped mushrooms (dried mushrooms also work great here), a roughly chopped onion, some garlic cloves smashed, a carrot in pieces, a bay leaf and some thyme. Add more water if you have room. Bring this to a boil, then turn down too low. Let simmer while you prep everything else. When ready to use, you can ladle directly from this pot, being careful only to use broth. Or quickly strain it and put the liquid back into the pot. It should be at a nice simmer, not boiling, when you want to start using it. Use whatever vegetables you have. If you only use mushrooms, onion and garlic, you’ll still be much better off and make a much more flavorful dish! Make a lot! This freezes beautifully and you will have it for next time or many other uses.
– If not using Mushroom Broth, put vegetable broth or chicken broth in the pot and bring to a nice simmer. (You can even put one of these broths in the pot, add some mushrooms and let it simmer, just to flavor the regular broth more.)
– While the broth is making, sauté your mushrooms: add 3 T butter to a large skillet or dutch oven and melt over medium high heat. Add your mushrooms, toss with the butter, then cover the skillet. Wait 8 minutes. When you remove the lid, you will be shocked at how much liquid is there. Leave the top off and cook down, letting the liquid burn off. If it starts to seem too hot, turn it down a little. As the liquid leaves, add a little port, some salt and pepper, 3 cloves minced garlic and, if you have it, diced shallot. Keep reducing until the mushrooms and soft and buttery. (Another pad of butter at the end is never going to hurt.)
– In the actual risotto pot, put a few glugs of olive oil and a pad of butter. Warm over medium. Sauté the onions in the olive oil and butter. (Throw in the pancetta as well, if using.) Sauté until the onions are very soft. Throw in the other 3 T minced garlic and thyme leaves for the last two minutes. Add a few shakes each of salt and pepper as well.
– Add your Farro (or whatever grain you’re using) and stir to coat with the olive oil and butter. (Not swimming in the oil, just coated. You can add a little more olive oil if need be.) Cook, stirring here and there, for a couple of minutes.
– Add the white wine and cook, stirring, until it is almost gone.
– At this point, you want both pots next to one another for ease. Add enough broth to cover the grains by a half inch or so. What happens now is you stir here and there and let the grains absorb the broth. Never let the grains be uncovered. Add a ladle or two of broth whenever you need, to keep the grains a little covered, stirring off and on.
NOTE: some recipes about risotto scare people away, making it seem difficult and that you cannot leave the stove. Not true! You do not have to stir constantly. Just be aware and around and don’t leave it for, say, five minutes without stirring. It’s just on and off, checking it, stirring some, being aware of the level of the liquid.
– Cook, adding broth as needed, until the grains are almost to a soft texture. Start tasting a grain at the 20 minute mark. Some of these grains (farro in particular) may take upwards of 40 minutes, longer than normal risotto. Just keep cooking. You want to end with almost no broth and the grains soft and kind of creamy. Winter grains won’t be as creamy as arborio rice but the trade off is so worth it, you get a flavor and texture that is wonderful.
– When the grains are pretty much done and the broth is pretty much absorbed, add another pad of butter, your sautéed mushrooms and the pecorino cheese. Stir well and cover for two minutes, to let sit and fully come together. Voila!
Note: Here is the recipe for the Creamed Kale