There is a thing about mushrooms that makes me catch my breath when I see them all piled up on top of each other, chanterelle and porcini, shitake, and oysters, all looking like they were just plucked from the earth and still slightly smelling of deep, dark woods. You could just saute them and have them on top of a seared skirt stake, or cook them into a red sauce with fresh thyme and rosemary, but I like mine in risotto. The thing I love best in this world is love, and before you even begin to make risotto, you have to let everything else go, and let love take over, or it will never work.
Get your music on, have a little wine, invite over the right company, or no one at all if you need the peace–do what you have to do to feel it, but you have to feel it before you start stirring the rice. The more you give, the more you get.
Start with a medium sized onion. Dice it very small and set aside. Get a dutch oven or heavy frying pan with high sides warmed over a medium flame, and drizzle in a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a one of unsalted butter. Add three whole garlic cloves, cut in half, and a two or three sprigs of fresh thyme. Saute until the garlic is golden on the cut side. Add the onion with a good pinch of salt. Turn the flame down to medium low and cook them slowly, until they are translucent. This is going to take about fifteen minutes. If you are into it, you won’t be complaining about the time it takes. Do you complain about how long it takes to make love when you are madly in love? That’s what we are reaching for, so if you have no time on a Monday, make minute rice on Monday, and wait until Friday to do it right.
When the onion tastes absolutely delicious and like you could eat the whole thing, add one and a half cups of arborio or carnaroli rice. Stir this all around for about thirty seconds. Add a cup of white wine. Wait until it nearly simmers away, and there is just a slippery shine in the pan, and then start adding hot stock.
(You need to make the stock yourself. There is no other option, unless you know the person who made it for you, or at least that a person made it. Just save the mushroom stems and throw those in with a few whole mushrooms, a carrot, a stalk of celery, an onion, a clove of garlic, a bay leaf and a sprig of thyme and one of parsley. Simmer it for an hour.
While you are making the stock, you want to saute 10 ounces total, of stemmed, sliced and sauted mushrooms over high heat without moving with a spoon for a few seconds until they get a sear for the risotto).
Back to adding stock. You can do it. Add the stock a ladle full at a time; and between each ladle be sure that you stir constantly and with attention, not too fast and not too slow. Wait until the liquid is nearly absorbed before you add the next ladle.
Taste for salt as you go.
When the risotto is nearly done, and the rice is still too chewy, add the sauteed mushrooms. Continue to add stock just until the rice is al dente. When it is done, turn off the heat. Add half a cup of parmesan that you grated yourself and about two tablespoons of butter, one tablespoon at a time. Add four five fresh thyme leaves, not too much at all, DO NOT OVERSTIR at this point. Fold these things in instead.
Taste for salt and black pepper. Not too much pepper.
It should taste like love, love, love and more love.