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Risotto al Porcini

Ingredients
2 cups Arborio rice (long grain rice won't work)
1 onion, finely chopped
3 TBS cooking olive oil
1 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and chopped
1 cup fresh mushrooms -- button Portobello, etc., chopped
1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms
6 cups beef stock, still hot
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
Pepper

1. Before you start, hydrate your dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of warm water. The dried mushrooms would like 20 minutes to freshen up. Chop the mushroom and put them in bowl, and reserve the liquid (it will be a little gritty, so either pour carefully to leave the grit behind, or pour through a strainer).

2. Add the fresh mushrooms and 1 TBS olive oil to a steel, cast iron or aluminum pan and set in a hot oven for a few minutes. Add the white wine, and cook for a few minutes, until the wine is reduced, but not gone. Remove the mushrooms from the pan, and add them to the porcini mushrooms (where they will pick up flavor by hanging out together).

3. Add the remaining 2 TBS olive olive, onions and garlic to the pan (don't bother to clean it) and set in a hot oven for a few minutes. Don't burn the garlic.

4. Add the rice, and stir to coat the rice with the olive oil. Return the pan to a hot oven for a few minutes to saute the rice. Do not let the rice turn brown.

5. Add 2 cups of the stock to the rice and stir the mixture. Return the pan to the oven. The technique with Risotto is to continue to stir the rice and to keep the mixture wet with stock -- this allows the rice to absorb the liquid, and the liquid to mix with the rice's starch to become creamy.

6. Add 1 cup of stock a a time, stir the mixture and return to the oven.

7. When you have 1 cup of stock left (it should take about 20 minutes), your rice should be nearly ready, but a tiny bit crunch on the inside. Don't forget that one of the characteristics of Arborio rice is that is stays firm in the center, and doesn't go mushy. At this point you are ready to finish the dish.

8. Add the mushroom, the last cup of stock and half (1/4 cup) of the Parmesan and stir. Return to pan to the oven to melt the cheese and heat the dish through.

9. Remove the pan and cover the rice with the remaining Parmesan and a little cracked pepper. Serve immediately.

Hints and Tips

Use a mix of fresh and porcini mushrooms. You will get great flavor without the expense of using all porcini's (which are even expensive in Italy).

Have everything else ready and bring the Risotto out last. Your Risotto will continue to cook and absorb the liquid after you have taken the pan from the oven, so it will be at its best the second you take it from the oven -- moist and creamy, not dry or pastey.

I have been struck by how wet the great Italian Risotto's are. Don't be afraid to serve yours a little soupy. It will firm up as it rests, and it is a more authentic dish this way.

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