Morel Risotto

Jeff Biolchini — Reprinted from SPORES Afield, April 2002

Italians traditionally make mushroom risotto with porcini mushrooms; unfortunately, I did not have much success finding Boletus edulis or Leccinum insigne last year. Luckily, the spring morels more than made up for this disappointment. Given my available ingredients, I swapped morels for the porcini in this recipe. The result was terrific, perhaps even better than with porcini.

The recipe is not difficult. However, be prepared for a half hour of constant stirring. This is necessary to release the starch that is characteristic of risotto. Other types of rice will not produce a dish even remotely resembling risotto. So, save yourself from the disappointment and pick up the real thing — arborio. It is cheapest purchased in bulk at a local health food store. For broth, I prefer chicken, but vegetable broth works will also.

A glass of Pinot Grigio or Verdicchio goes great with this dish, but limit yourself to a single glass because alcohol and morels do cause stomach upsets for some people. (The alcohol in the risotto evaporates leaving only the harmless flavor.)

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
6 cups broth
4 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup white wine
1 handful of dried morels
cracked pepper

Place the morels in a small pot and pour in as much broth as necessary to cover them. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mince the onion.

Remove the morels from their soaking liquid, chop, and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid to remove any debris and set it aside. Keep this liquid separate from the rest of the broth. You may not use all of the broth, but you definitely want to use all of the soaking liquid.

Place the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once melted, add the minced onion and sauté until it becomes transparent.

From this point forward you will ned to stir continuously. Add the rice to the onion and sauté for three minutes. Then pour in the wine.

Once the wine has been absorbed, begin adding the soaking liquid one cup at a time. After the liquid has been absorbed, add another cup. Use up the soaking liquid before moving on to the broth. Continue adding the liquid one cup at a time, stirring continuously, and waiting until the liquid has been absorbed before adding more liquid.

Once the rice is tender all the liquid is absorbed, remove from the heat. Mix in the cheese, morels, and cracked pepper.

Buon apetito!