Teena’s Wild Mushroom Risotto
Nature's course leads to Morel Mushroom Risotto. I first had morel mushrooms on my honeymoon in Bermuda in 1984. The veal chop I ordered one night there, with a luxurious morel cream sauce and a hint of tarragon, was, and still is, one of the most memorable dishes I’ve ever tasted. What many people don’t know is that fresh morel mushrooms are considered somewhat “sacred” in that they are not easy to come by. In fact, the last time I saw them grow naturally was 21 years ago after a timber harvest we had on our land produced giant burn piles from which the morels emerged the following spring. However, the morels that recently popped up were in the Caldor Fire scarred burn area a few miles north of us. They, too, are of a certain species that only appear briefly on burned soils during spring after a wildfire. When our vineyard assistant Kass recently gifted me a large bag of these precious gems, all covered in pine needles, ash and dirt, and then offered to take me foraging for more, I was certain I had died and gone to heaven. After making this recipe about five times in the past two weeks I couldn’t keep it to myself and thought I’d better share.
I hope you enjoy...bon appétit!
Wild Mushroom Risotto
12 ounces fresh Morel Mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 1/3” pieces (or 2.25 ounces dried Morels rehydrated in warm water for 30 minutes, drained and rinsed of sediment)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup finely chopped red, white or yellow onion
2 cloves of fresh garlic, pressed
12 ounces (3/4 cup) Arborio rice
½ cup white wine or light red wine
6 cups Chicken stock
Kosher salt and ground black pepper (optional)
1 cup fresh grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, divided
optional garnish: 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme or winter savory
In a 3-quart saucepan heat chicken stock and hold at a low simmer. In a deep 6-quart heavy pot, set on medium heat, add olive oil and 1 Tablespoon of the butter. When butter is melted add onion and cook until soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add pressed garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Toss in Arborio rice and stir for about 2 more minutes until coated. Add wine, stirring until absorbed. Ladle in 1 cup of hot stock and stir until all liquid is absorbed before adding another cup of stock (i.e. when you drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan and it leaves a noticeably clean trail it’s time to ladle in another cup of stock.) Continue adding stock until you are down to the last 2 cups of stock. Taste the risotto for al dente doneness (tender yet still firm to the bite and moist) and to add salt and pepper if needed. If not serving right away turn off heat and leave uncovered. Just before serving turn on medium heat and add the last cups of chicken stock, stir until almost absorbed but still very loose and moist. Stir in remaining tablespoon of butter and half the grated cheese. Serve as a side dish or a separate course in warmed bowls with remaining cheese and, if desired, fresh herb garnish.
This Risotto is both rustic yet elegant, full of rich flavors and appropriate for any season. This is one of our favorite and most versatile wine pairing dishes for a small group as it works with white, red and even sparkling wines. We love it best with fruity Rhone varietals or blends: Grenache, Syrah and/or Mourvedre – the new 2017 Dunamis, Estate was made for this dish and turns out to be an incredibly perfect pairing. If you are a white wine-lover try non-malolactic style white wines such as our Viognier, Roussanne or Chardonnay. The non-malolactic character compliments the dense, palate coating texture of the risotto. Delicious!
* If fresh wild mushrooms are not available you can substitute fresh brown or white mushrooms. You can also hydrate dried wild mushrooms such as porcini or morels and use them solely in the Risotto or in addition to the fresh cultivated mushrooms to enhance the flavor. I like to purchase the Certified Organic dried wild mushroom mixed “bits and pieces” and whole Porcini’s online.