(Above: This is a perfect dish to welcome fall in New England.)
You can add many things to risotto but mushrooms (especially porcini) are my favorite. I made this dish up last night with vegetables I had on hand: cremini mushrooms and eggplant. Feel free to omit the eggplant, it’s just as good.
Making risotto is not hard, but it is an art. The key is adding small amounts of hot liquid to the rice, only enough for it to be absorbed a minute or two at a time. This ensures the dish will be not only flavorful but will have the correct texture: think al dente (with a little bite); never soggy or water-logged.
And of course, the main thing you do, is stir it properly. Don’t stir it too much, just enough to keep it from burning on the bottom. Cook it on medium to low heat: just enough to maintain a medium simmer. (Tip: Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan while stirring and lower the heat if you think the liquid is evaporating too fast or if there is a danger of the rice burning.)
You can serve this as a main meal (serves four) with a side salad; or as a side dish. And if you’re out to impress, try serving it as a side-dish inside a parmesan basket.
Risotto With Mushrooms and Eggplant
This dish takes about 45 minutes to make if you work fast. Add another 15-minutes to 30 minutes if you work at a leisurely pace.
- Arborio rice (1 pound). Accept no substitutes, this is what makes risotto, risotto.
- Chicken broth (About 44 ounces). You can use home-made stock (the best), or canned broth, or some bullion cubes with water or a mixture of all. You can also use a little white wine. Last night I used a combination of canned broth, chicken bullion cube, and a porcini bullion cube with hot water. Whatever liquid you use, be sure to heat it up before you add it to the rice.
- Onion (1 small or a 1/2 of a large onion
- Olive oil (About 1/4 cup
- enough to cover the bottom of a medium-sized pot
- plus more to coat the eggplant and mushrooms.)
- Mushrooms (About 8 oz.
- Eggplant (1 small or 3/4 of a large eggplant, sliced thin)
- Nepitella (About 1 tablespoon. A mixture of dried basil and mint will also work).
- Parmesan cheese (About 1/2 cup, grated
- or to taste)
- Butter (About 1-2 tablespoons)
- Pepper (Just a sprinkle, to taste)
- Step 1 Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pot over low heat. Add diced onion and cook until translucent.
- Step 2 Add rice and stir. Add more olive oil if needed, just enough to coat the rice. Cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.
- Step 3 Ladle in the liquid, just enough to cover the rice and stir. When liquid is absorbed, add more liquid, just enough to cover and stir. Continue doing this until risotto is done (about 45 minutes).
- Step 4 In between stirring the risotto, coat a cookie sheet with olive oil and salt (kosher is best). Put down a layer of eggplant and brush tops of eggplant slices with oil and salt. Bake in a 400-degree oven, turning over when bottom is brown. Do the same with the mushrooms. Add nepitella to the cooked mushrooms and set aside.
- Step 5 When risotto is done. Stir in eggplant and mushrooms. Stir in butter and parmesan cheese. Add pepper to taste.