Cooking with Nonno: Mushroom Risotto

“Whatever you do Ja, don’t be cheap on oil or cheese!” 

We went through an entire 500ml bottle of EVOO & 1/4lb of Parmiggiano Regiano in one batch; I now know the true meaning of those words…

I’ve attempted to make my Nonnos risotto recipe a few times by myself. As delicious as my brave attempts have been, I was nowhere near on par with what I was used to my Nonno serving me… So, I went straight to the man for a tutorial! I’m sure it would be a great addition to your holiday dinner…

  

First we started with about 1lb of freshly foraged Chanterelle mushrooms from Harrison Hot Springs. Nonno roughly chopped those into large pieces.

  
  

“Don’t bother dicing the garlic Bella, it’s not worth it!” 

Wait, what?!

This one was mildly upsetting as I love chopping garlic. I’m weird. Something about the fresh aromas and rhythm of the knife…

Pour a generous amount of oil in a frying pan. When the oil is bubbling hot add large chunks of garlic. In keeping the garlic peices chunky, you lower the risk of burning them. Any chef will tell you burnt garlic  is the best way to completely ruin a dish. It will dissolve as we continue cooking, anyways… First tip I learned during this lesson!

   
  

Chanterelles washed and roughly quartered – ready to be cooked! 

   

We used this entire bottle by the time we were done cooking, and I’m not ashamed even one bit. When you use quality oil, you want that flavour to come through.  

  

Keeping the heat on medium-high, sautée chanterelles and mix often. 

    
  

Meanwhile, pour another healthy amount of the good stuff in a deep cooking pot. Nonno uses his own homegrown, home made crushed garlic paste to cook with! The garlic is Elephant Garlic that was grown in his backyard and stored with EVOO to infuse flavour. The aromas right here were intoxicating. 

  
  

As you continue cooking the Chanterelles, you will see they have released some of their inner water. Add a pinch of salt to help speed up this process. 

  

You will know that they are cooked when there is no more water left in the pan, only oil. The water will cause bubbling as it boils on high heat, but the oil will remain after the water evaporates. 

    

Of course, having an espresso in the process is completely necessary…

    
   
  

“These are the best dried mushrooms you can get, and you can’t even buy them in Vanvouver. I get them from a guy I know in Trail…”

Of course you do. And he wasn’t lying these mushrooms were the shit. The minute they were submerged in water they  began to fill the kitchen with wonderful earthy aromas.

  

“Fill up a bowl of water enough to cover the mushrooms. This is going to be the water you use to cook the rice.” 

    

Look at that colour! Just from rehydrating the mushrooms. This is why you don’t need to, and should never, use stock of any kind when making mushroom risotto. 

  
Meanwhile, heat your pot of garlic and oil until bubbling hot. Stir frequently. Add your entire portion of rice and roast the grains. Watch for them to turn a slightly grayish colour. Then grab your vino.

  

We used a half bottle (375ml) of Coda di Volpe wine from Benvenuto in Campania, Italy. This is the region my Nonnos family is from. The wine is bone dry, light bodied, medium acid and slightly tart with green apples, lime and toasted almond.
  

This scalds the pan and will lift off all the tasty bits from the bottom, and helps prevent future sticking.

  

Then add half of your mushroom soaked water to your pot. Medium heat. Use a heavy wooden spoon and mix from the bottom to the top, folding the contents into itself. 

“Tell me when you think it’s 3/4 cooked, and then let me taste it okay Ja? I gotta sit down my knee is killing me. Don’t stop stirring!”

  

Add in the remaining mushroom water and  stir, being sure to scrape the sides well.

  

This was the texture when we stopped cooking the rice. Now to add in all of the mushrooms!

   
    

Stoke thoroughly and often to add black pepper or sat if desired. We threw a good pinch of each in. 

   

“What are these things called again? Do you know what it is Ja? Don’t use anything else, okay? No herbs, no nothing. Use the things only if the people like them”

He was talking about Bay Leaves… At the very end, for a little added flavour add 3 leaves and mix well. 

    

See how much liquid is still there even at the end? It’s mostly oil. Nonno threw another heathy dose of EVOO in at the end. Keep the bay leaves in until you are ready to serve, but be careful not to plate them! 

Now, for il formaggio… We put about 1C in our pot and stirred. Then dusted each serving with a little more because you can’t be cheap on cheese, remember?

   

   

I was such a happy thing eating this and I hope you are too! 

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