Driven to a large degree by the desire to use the best local and seasonal ingredients, Italian cooking is highly regional. I have no doubt that if chanterelles mushrooms were widely available in Italy, Chanterelle Risotto would be a famous dish.
These mushrooms are widely found in the wild in the Eastern part of North America and are actively sought by enthusiasts. Although easy to identify, if you are not familiar with hunting for them, it is best to get some guidance from a local expert before undertaking this yourself. Otherwise, they are widely available in markets and grocery stores.
They have a distinct flavor but also are good at absorbing flavors when cooked. Therefore, they are perfect for risotto. Additionally, they are also rich in minerals and vitamins. In this recipe, the risotto is topped with crumbled fresh sausage that is cooked alongside the risotto.
Risotto is an art form
Making a good risotto requires technique and time. It is an art form, it should not be rushed, it requires many steps and almost constant stirring. One should not undertake this lightly. However, if you follow the art form and not rush the cooking, it produces a much more flavorful creamy result. It is possible you may find the required repeated ladling of stock and stirring has a meditative quality about it.
The recipe below contains details of the classical technique, with modifications. Some modifications to classical techniques have been made, as are outlined below.
Notes on Ingredients
Stock: To fully appreciate the flavor of the chanterelles, I prefer a lighter stock. A vegetable stock like my market stock, or chicken stock works best. If you feel your stock is too intense, water it down. There will be enough other flavors in this dish. If using the vegetable stock, I take an additional step of adding a bit of Parmesan rind to the stock while it simmers to fully give the dish the Parmesan flavor.
Italian Sausage: Fresh Italian sausage is required. It will be crumbled and browned and added on top. The spiciness is a matter of taste, but a mild or medium will allow for the chanterelles to shine.
Rice: Risotto requires special Italian rice. Arborio is the most commonly found outside of Italy, but many passionate Italian cooks swear by carnaroli and in the Veneto region the preference is vialone nano. I have found the later produces a creamier texture.
Notes on Techniques
A wooden spoon: A good risotto requires a lot of stirring. I suggest at least 30 minutes of almost constant stirring. I find that using a wooden spoon gives a quiet, relaxing feel to the effort. Wooden may be best, but frankly anything but metal. You do not want to listen to metal on metal scrapping for 30 minutes.
Sautéing the onions/ toasting the rice: Almost every recipe for risotto and even the classical technique has a flaw in it that will drive you to toss your wooden spoon in frustration. The first step of risotto is to add butter and olive oil along with the onions and garlic to the pot and cook slowly until soft and golden brown. Then, you add the rice to toast. The toasting requires a higher temperature. As a result, you end up burning your onions, negating the care you put into the garlic and onions.
Overcooking the onions seems like a small issue, but the more you cook risotto, the more it bothers you. Therefore, I will discuss it in detail here. One Italian expert suggests cooking the onions separately, sliced not chopped, then chopping before adding to the risotto. Browning the onions and the garlic, then removing and setting aside before toasting the rice seems unavoidable (if you don’t want to throw your spoon). Doing it with the onions in slices is easier. In this recipe, if you are adding the optional sausage on top you will need to cook it in an extra pan. Therefore, I take an extra step and recommend cooking the onions and garlic in a separate pan and later using it for the sausage. If not planning on adding the sausage, the sliced onion and setting aside approach can be used.
The Wave: I picked up this technique from a detailed discussion on preparing risotto by Italian writer Massimo D’Almo. It is the perfect metaphor for the finishing of the dish. The last of the stock needs to be absorbed and you want to finish with a creamy, uniform texture on top and throughout the dish. The wave technique involves turning the risotto by lifting the bottom of the rice and rolling on top, like a wave coming to shore. The sensation of seeing the creamy finish on top is a satisfying finish to your labors.
- 6 cups light vegetable or chicken stock
- A chunk of Parmesan rind (about 2 inches square)
- 2 fresh Italian sausages (optional)
- 4 Tablespoons of butter
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cups risotto rice (arborio, carnaroli, vialone nano, etc.)
- 12 ounces (320g) Chanterelle Mushrooms, chopped
- ½ glass dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or thyme
- 3 ounces (90g) grated Parmesan
- Chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper, to taste
To make this risotto will require three pans. The stock will be warmed in one pan. The risotto in another. The third pan will cook the onion and then the sausage. The sausage may be cooked in advance. However, if you are up to juggling multiple pans, it can be cooked during the ample time the risotto simmers.
- Bring the stock along with the Parmesan rind to a gentle simmer in a pan. You will need to keep it there on a low simmer as you work. Taste the stock before you begin to determine the level of saltiness.
- If using fresh sausage, remove the casing to prepare for cooking.
- Add 1 tablespoon each of the butter and olive oil to a medium sauté pan along with the onions and garlic. Cook on low to medium heat until the golden. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 of olive oil in a medium pot for the risotto on medium heat. Add the rice and toast for 2 or 3 minutes until it becomes slightly translucent.
- Add the chopped chanterelles and cook for a minute or so to soften and absorb some of the fats.
- Add the wine and the onion/garlic mix to the risotto pot along with any fat and juices in the saute pan. The wine should simmer quite rapidly. Stir constantly to prevent the rice from sticking and to allow the wine to be absorbed evenly.
- When the wine is absorbed, ladle about ⅓ cup (80 ml) of stock to the pot. Add salt, as needed. Adjust heat to a light simmer, stirring frequently. When the liquid is almost completely absorbed, ladle in more. Add a little salt each time you ladle. How much depends on your salt taste in step 1. You will continue this process for about the next 30 minutes. Frequently stir making sure rice does not stick to the bottom and liquid is absorbed evenly.
- When you have the process of ladling and stirring well underway and under control, now you can start browning the sausage. In the pan used for the onions add the sausage, crumble up the sausage into bits while browning. Since you are cooking slowly, you should be able to handle both jobs.
- When about half of the stock is in the risotto stir in the fresh oregano or thyme. When about ½ cup (120ml) of stock remains to be added start adding some of the Parmesan, reserving some for serving at the table. Grind some black pepper into the risotto. At this point, tasting is required to determine the quantities of Parmesan, salt, and pepper needed.
- When the last ladle of stock has been added, work carefully to continue to stir. When almost all of the liquid has been absorbed, remove from heat and finish by turning the risotto by lifting from the bottom and over the top almost like a wave. Dry sections will turn over wet sections creating a final perfect texture.
- Serve by mounding on a plate, top with the crumbled sausage some fresh parsley and serve with the remaining grated parmesan at the table.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 596Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 58mgSodium: 689mgCarbohydrates: 53gFiber: 8gSugar: 9gProtein: 17g
Calculated Nutrition is estimated.