March 31, 2009

Porcini and Pancetta Risotto Rustica

[caption id="attachment_71" align="aligncenter" width="427" caption="Risotto Rustica"]Risotto Rustica[/caption]

Risotto is among the best comfort foods and it only requires simple techniques and ingredients. The fundamental ingredient is rice.

Use approximately ¼ cup uncooked rice per person for a side dish, or ½ cup per person for a main dish. Vialone Nano, Carnaroli, or Arborio are the best choices for rice. Arborio is high in starch and commonly available. Carnaroli, also high in starch, has a firmer texture than Arborio and is resistant to quick cooking; it is considered the premier rice for risotto. Vialone Nano is a slightly shorter, thicker grain; it holds twice its weight in liquid, yet makes a slightly less creamy sauce.

[caption id="attachment_57" align="alignleft" width="123" caption="Porcini"]Porcini[/caption]

I was lucky to get some beautiful dried porcini. I tossed the porcini into a sauce pan with a quart of chicken stock, brought it gently to a boil, and then turned off the heat to let the mushrooms reconstitute and infuse the stock at the same time.

While the porcini were soaking, I assembled the remainder of the mise en place: about ½ pound of pancetta, diced; ½ a red onion, diced; 2 cloves garlic, minced; a generous portion of Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved. In addition, there was a bottle of chardonnay ready to hand, about four tablespoons of unsalted butter, and my secret weapon, a wonderful truffle and salt blend.

The basic technique for creating a really creamy risotto is pretty easy--don't stop stirring. It's very important that the liquid you'll be adding is at the simmer, and that you add about four times as much liquid as you do rice.

risottostep2I started with the pancetta, added the onion until translucent, then the garlic, and finally the porcini. Whenever anything felt like it was sticking the least bit, I splashed a tablespoon or so of wine into the pan to deglaze. Once everything was cooked, I poured it into a bowl for later, added some nice olive oil to the pan, added the rice--about 1½ cups--and cooked it until white spots appeared, about 3 minutes.risottostep3

At this point, it's a simple matter of continual stirring while adding up to ½ stock at a time; add a pinch of salt after each addition of liquid. When the stock is mostly absorbed, add more. If anything feels like it's sticking, deglaze with a bit of wine. I used about ½ cup of wine in total, and about six cups of chicken broth. For salt, I used the truffle and salt combo, a really wonderfully fragrant option.

risottofinishWhen the rice is just done, it should be a bit toothy but not crunchy, add butter, cheese, cream, or whatever else you're finishing with. I used unsalted butter and ½ a cup or so of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Once incorporated, I added the pancetta, onion, and porcini mixture and dished it into bowls filled with arugula. A glass of chianti riserva completed the meal.


  1. This blog's great!! Thanks :).

  2. A tweet from Chez Pim on the dinner she was enjoying mentioned a risotto I simply must try: uni, lime, and passion fruit.