Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Morel Risotto

I wanted to take a minute to thank you all for helping out with my bake sale benefiting Relay for Life.  With your help, we were able to raise over $350 for the cause!  Thank you so much!  I'm very excited to take part in the Relay this coming June.  Now, to celebrate our successful fundraiser, I've made you a fancy dinner.

They're so weird looking!

According to my mother, I have spent 26 of my 30 years on this earth going to school.  I started pre-school at the sweet age of 3.  Blonde with ringlet pigtails, I headed off into the world to learn my ABCs and 123s.  Apparently I wanted to go to school the year before because my brother was going and I was jealous. 

I always liked school.  I liked learning, taking tests, doing homework and bringing home good grades.  When I got a good report card we went to the toy store and I got more Barbies.  High marks = more Barbies.  That's some good math for a little girl.

As I continued through high school, the Barbie brides fell away and I simply realized my nerd potential and kept up my good grades.  I don't think it would surprise you if I said I took advanced placement chemistry and placed in the top of the New York State Chemistry challenge.

I spent a year in college, trying to pretend that I wasn't a big old nerd.  I was a photography major!  I spent hours learning about shutter and aperture, shooting roll after roll of film and wandering blindly through the color darkroom.  I wasn't a nerd, I was an artist!  Unfortunately, I was doing better in my calculus classes than I was in my art classes (I am not a painter).  Come sophomore year, I switched majors and the rest is history (or a story for another time!).
One Year Ago: Key Lime Mallowpuffs

Morel Risotto
Inspired by Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics

Before this dish, I had never cooked with or even eaten a morel mushroom.  As a grad student, there was no way that I was paying $300/lb for dried mushrooms!  Even today I had a hard time ponying up $15 for a little container of them!  Let me tell you something, these little guys were totally worth it!  The morels, while looking like little brains, have a rich, meaty flavor.  They imparted a smooth texture to the risotto and even boyfriend (who dislikes mushrooms!) ate an enormous portion.

Seriously, $299.99 a pound!!!
0.05 lb dried morels
1 cup boiling water
1/4 lb cremini mushrooms
2 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp butter
1/3 lb thick cut bacon
1 shallot, chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place dried morels in a coffee cup and pour boiling water over the top.  Let mushrooms hydrate for 30 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove morels from the liquid to another bowl.  Filter mushroom liquid through a double-layer of paper towels and reserve mushroom liquid, it should be about 1 cup.  If not, top off with more water.

While the mushrooms are hydrating, using a wet paper towel, clean off the caps of the cremini mushrooms.  Do not wash, or soak the mushrooms.  Remove the stems and slice the mushrooms.

Combine mushroom water and chicken stock in a small saucepan.  Heat stock over medium-low until steamy.

In a large, high-sided pan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add bacon and shallots and cook for 5 minutes.  Add morel and cremini mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add rice and stir to coat in butter.  Add white wine and cook for 1-2 minutes, until wine is totally absorbed.

Add chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time and stir the rice often.  Add stock, 1 ladle at a time, once the previous addition is completely absorbed.  Continue adding chicken stock until the rice is cooked through with a good texture to it (taste test!).  It might not take all of the chicken stock to reach the point at which you like the texture.

Serve risotto topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  For a complete meal, serve along side a simple grilled chicken breast.
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