CG: Mushroom Risotto

I love mushrooms.  I tend to add them to almost any dish: pizza, pasta, soup, bread and so on.  So when I found this recipe for Mushroom Garlic Risotto on Not Your Average College Food, I was ecstatic.  This is a fairly simple recipe that does involve some chopping but it is definitely worth it.  As with most recipes I find online, I altered this one a bit to better suit my taste.

While I love mushrooms, they have not always been loved back thanks to the many poisonous varieties out there.  According to an article by PBS, there tend to be two kinds of people out there, those who love mushrooms, called mycophiles, and those who fear mushrooms, called mycophobes.  Despite being a mycophile myself, I would never dare try to find edible wild mushrooms due to the deadliness of some.  In part because of more ease of access to edible mushrooms in grocery stores and the rise of using locally sourced and organic foods, mushrooms are now more popular than ever.

Types of mushroom. Image from PBS.org.

Types of mushroom. Image from PBS.org.

Mushrooms are a fungus and the most common variety is the button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus), which accounts for about 40% of all mushrooms grown in the world.  Mushrooms are fungus that have threadlike roots and caps and there have been 38,000 varieties identified.  The threads in the roots and caps are also known as “gills” which allow air to pass through and moisture to evaporate.  This process is what gives many mushrooms their meaty richness.

Button mushrooms. Image from Wikipedia.

Button mushrooms. Image from Wikipedia.

While mushrooms, such as the “death cap” (amanita) cause fear for a legitimate reason, other mushrooms have been known to provide health benefits due to the rich amount of protein, potassium and polysaccharides, which contribute to healthy immune function.  Of course then there are the mushrooms that are neither deadly nor used for eating, such as the hallucinogenic versions used in religious and spiritual activities.  Some of the groups of people who consumed these types of mushrooms were Siberian shamans and vikings, native peoples in Mexico both during the 13-15 centuries AD and even after the conquest of Mexico in 1519.

Mushrooms were not widely understood especially in the West where most people were considered mycophobes, while in the East most people tended to be mycophiles.  The French began to change attitudes toward mushrooms when they started to use them in their cooking.  After this the use of mushrooms spread and by the late 19th century Americans were cooking with them as well.  Americans even went further with their love of mushrooms and went beyond using them for condiments and instead created clubs for foraging, identifying and cooking them.  

Today certain mushrooms are extremely valuable, most notably the prized truffles.  These are one of the most expensive foods in the world.  The grow underground and near tree roots, such as the oak, hazel, beech and chestnut.  Dogs and pigs are trained to sniff them out and then truffle farmer (trufficulteur) will check for ripeness.  They must not be touched by bare hands otherwise it will begin to rot.  Those that are not found ripe yet are left to reach maturity.

As for the mushrooms continued popularity, one can now find entire cookbooks devoted to them and all the different ways one can cook them.  This is a vast change in American’s original opinion of them which was that they were either poisonous or unwholesome.  One of the first American recipes for mushrooms was baked mushrooms on toast with cream sauce.  Now vegetarians take full advantage of the meatiness of portobello mushrooms and use the caps as replacements for meat in burgers.  While certain mushrooms will always be feared, the rest can be absolutely delicious.

Ingredients (My Version)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion

1 bulb of garlic

Salt to taste

1 1/2 cups of sliced mushrooms (whatever kind you prefer)

1 or 2 cups of white rice (depending on how may people you plan to serve)

2-4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 tsp butter

Grated Parmesan cheese to taste

Fresh parsley to garnish

Preparation

Cook the rice either via a rice cooker (preferred) or on the stove top (add a little less water than normal).  Chop the onions, mince the garlic, mince the parsley, and wash the mushrooms.  Set all of this aside.

Cooking

Heat the olive oil then add the onions and garlic (in a pan large enough for the rice to be added to it) and cook until both are soft.  In a separate pan, cook the mushrooms until soft and size has been reduced.  Going back to the large pan, add the rice and mix well.  Then add the broth until it covers the rice and let it simmer, stirring occasionally.  Cook until most of the broth has been absorbed into the rice.  Afterwards add the butter, cheese, mushrooms, parsley and salt.  Mix and heat for a couple more minutes.  Done!

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do.  Mushrooms can bring so much flavor to a dish and this is no exception.  If you try this recipe let me know how it went.

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