The D-Constructed Cook: Creamy Mushroom Risotto

A flavorful, versatile comfort food recipe.

by Justin Mon | 5/3/21 2:00am

mushroom_risotto
by Justin Mon / The Dartmouth

While living somewhere as remote as Hanover has its pros and cons, there’s one thing for certain: you’ll never want for mushrooms. Whether you are vegetarian or not, mushroom risotto has a rich umami flavor that meat simply cannot beat. The mushrooms give this dish depth, and the creaminess from the starchy rice and fatty cheese creates a luscious sauce that surrounds each grain of rice. I will say, this dish is a labor of love; it requires standing at the stove for a good half hour, constantly stirring and ladling in hot broth. However, the end result is a dish that is simultaneously decadent and impressive. It’s perfect for when you need some comfort food or when friends come over.

To start, let’s talk about mushrooms. In the recipe, I recommend using a mix of cremini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Cremini mushrooms will give you a solid mushroom flavor and, when sliced, tend to get nice and golden and melt away into the rice. Shiitake mushrooms have a smokier flavor and add a bit more texture to the dish. They are slightly tougher which gives them a meatiness and mouthfeel that is notably different from cremini mushrooms. Oyster mushrooms, while not as flavorful as the other two, add a little bit of crunch and do a great job of taking on the flavors of the dish. If you are able to get your hands on oyster mushrooms, I recommend hand tearing them for a more rustic look and feel. My favorite trick to cooking mushrooms is tossing them in miso butter. The savoriness of the miso brings out their umami flavor and the butter adds a layer of depth of flavor to each morsel of mushroom.

My personal favorite place to get mushrooms is the Co-op Food store in Hanover. They source their mushrooms from Dunk’s Mushrooms, a gourmet mushroom farm based in Brentwood, New Hampshire. Two types stand above the rest: the Blue Oyster mushrooms for their chewy texture and the Lions Mane mushrooms for their tenderness. The Co-op sells these tasty mushrooms by weight, which makes it easy to pick out a custom blend of mushrooms and try new ones. 

Equally as important as the mushrooms is the rice. Arborio rice, a short-grained rice hailing from northern Italy, is the most traditional choice for risotto. This strain works well in this dish because of its starch content: As the dish simmers, the rice will release starch into the dish that will help give you a deliciously creamy end product. However, arborio rice can be hard to find and is typically pretty expensive. If you need an alternative, sushi rice is great because like arborio, it is short-grained and starchy. You’ll definitely want to avoid any rice that is long-grained, as it won’t get thick and silky, and the end result will be closer to a rice pilaf than a risotto.

Although this dish contains butter and parmesan cheese, it is very easy to make vegan-friendly. Instead of butter, vegan butter or extra virgin coconut oil works wonders. Vegan butter has the same creaminess that will mix well into the miso and the mushrooms. To replace the salty, nuttiness of the parmesan cheese, flakes of nutritional yeast — a yeast often used in vegan substitutes that comes in flake-form and packs a lot of nutrients and flavor — will add a similar flavor and help thicken up the liquid in the pan. Other than those two ingredients, the rest are plant-based, making this a versatile dish for any type of guest.

I typically serve this dish alongside a tossed green salad or some roasted vegetables. In the spring season, oven-roasted asparagus or sautéed broccoli rabe tastes great with this risotto. For the meat lovers out there, the risotto can also be a side for a nice cut of seared steak. If I were going down that route, I would sear the steak in the same pan to imbue all of that meaty residue into the risotto. Nonetheless, this mushroom risotto is a great standalone dish that is bound to impress.

Yield: 4 large, 6 medium servings

Ingredients:

6 cups of vegetable stock

2 tbsp. of olive oil

2 tbsp. of vegetable oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil or any neutral oil with a high smoke point

2 lbs of mushrooms (cremini, shiitake, oyster or a mix)

2 shallots or 1 yellow onion, finely diced

6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 cups of short-grain rice (arborio rice or sushi rice)

½ cup of white wine, preferably dry

4 tbsp. of butter

½ cup of grated parmesan cheese

Basil and shaved parmesan cheese to top

1 tbsp. of miso

Salt and pepper

Red pepper flakes (to taste)

Vegan

¼ cup of nutritional yeast

4 tbsp. of vegan butter

Preparation:

1. To start, prepare the miso butter for the mushrooms. Combine 2 tbsp. of butter and 1 tbsp. of miso in a small bowl. Smash with a fork until well incorporated and homogenous.

2. Add 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil to a large dutch oven, large skillet or wide pot. Heat oil through and add mushrooms. Leave alone for 3-4 minutes until the bottoms brown, then flip and sear for 3-4 minutes. When golden and browned, add miso butter and toss. Scoop out and set aside. 

3. Add 2 tbsp. of olive oil and heat through. Add onions and garlic. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant (3-5 minutes).

4. Add rice and cook until each grain gets toasty, about 2 minutes.

5. Deglaze with white wine and cook until the alcohol cooks off, about 1-2 minutes. 

6. Meanwhile, heat vegetable stock to a quiet simmer.

7. Ladle by ladle, add vegetable stock until the rice absorbs most of the liquid. Stir constantly to avoid burning and add more liquid after each absorption. It should take around 8-10 rounds of ladling, about 20-25 minutes on the stove. 

8. When about ½ cup of liquid remains, add ¾ of the reserved mushrooms, 2 tbsp. of butter, grated parmesan and the remaining broth. Remove from heat and stir until glossy.

9. Top with remaining mushrooms, basil and shaved parmesan.

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!