Creamy, rich, warm and earthy—this risotto is the perfect fall side dish or stand-alone starter with just about everything and anything, and it’s vegetarian when you make it with mushroom stock. It’s pretty easy to make, but it does require your full attention; don’t try to multitask when making risotto, as you’ll need to stand at the stove and stir for the whole time. This recipe calls for two kinds of mushrooms: fresh and dried. Each offer something to the dish, with the dry adding tons of flavour, and the fresh adding body and silky bites of mushrooms. Any mushroom will do, but shiitake are nice fresh, while porcini or other wild mushrooms are best dry. This recipe doesn’t call for salt, as most stocks are salty enough—it’s up to you!
1/3 cup dry, chopped wild or porcini mushrooms
7 cups mushroom or chicken stock, divided
1 1/2 cups pot or pearl barley
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups thinly sliced or finely chopped fresh mushrooms
1 tsp pepper
1/4 cup medium-dry sherry
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese + more for garnishing at the table
2 tbsp butter
Rehydrate dried mushrooms in about 1/2 cup boiled water; let sit, covered, for about 10 minutes, then drain through a fine sieve. Save mushroom water and add it to the 7 cups of stock.
In small saucepan over medium heat, bring stock and mushroom liquid to gentle simmer and hold it there. Set ladle or heat-proof measuring cup near pot—you’ll be going back and forth to it.
In medium saucepan over medium heat, add barley, stirring constantly, and let it colour and blister ever so slightly, about 5 to 10 minutes. This step adds a lovely toasty depth of flavour to the final dish.
Add oil, fresh mushrooms, pepper and sherry, stirring often for about 5 minutes.
Add 5 cups of stock, stir to incorporate, and continue to stir often until this liquid has been absorbed by the barley, then start adding remaining stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and adding the next 1/2 cup of stock only after the one before has been absorbed. Do this until all the stock is used and the barley is soft and creamy but al dente—this could take up to 40 minutes.
Stir in cheese until incorporated, then add butter, stirring until melted and incorporated, and serve immediately with more Parmesan grated overtop at the table.
Tidbit: Did you know that leftover risotto is the basis for arancini, those scrumptious fried rice balls in tomato sauce? Any leftovers of this recipe will also work.
From Hudson, Quebec, now living in Port Hope, Ontario, Signe is a restaurant chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes for LCBO’s Food & Drink, Manna Pro Hearty Homestead, The Harvest Commission, and Today’s Parent; she published her first book – Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden with 100 Recipes – in 2015.