Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms, Saffron and Red Wine
I’ve never used red wine in a risotto before, for some reason it never seemed like a good match. I don’t really use red wine at all in my cooking. I used to, when I first started experimenting in the kitchen after I returned from Basilicata at the age of 17. I can’t say that I had any idea about what I was doing, and probably made some pretty horrendous meals, but there was an enormous amount of enthusiasm there, and that is really what counts the most, right? I would make a tomato sauce for pasta, thinking that I was making it the same way my host mother made her ragù, only I would leave out the meat. I made it with red wine, just pouring it into sauce and I would use a ton of herbs, two things she would have never done to her ragù. The only thing I did that had any resemblance to her ragù was cooking it for hours on end. I remember thinking that it didn’t taste anything like her sauce, not able to understand why, not that I had ever seen her make it or followed her in the kitchen, I just ate it with great pleasure and thought that I would be able to invent it myself. I was so wrong, it probably wasn’t all that bad, I was convinced it was good and my parents never turned their noses up at it.
For some reason since I really started cooking and understanding food and how flavors work together, I have never used red wine. Until I made this risotto, though all of the credit has to go to my husband who’s idea it was. Something to jazz it up since we have been eating a lot of dried porcini mushroom risotto and saffron risotto lately. I loved the ruby color that it gave the risotto, which was then changed by the color of the mushrooms and the saffron, but it also added a deepness to the flavor which white wine wouldn’t have done.
Every cook suggests that you use wine that you would also drink, which I can’t say I always do. This wine was leftover from a bottle that my husband and I didn’t care for and left in the refrigerator to use for cooking, and we usually buy the small individual bottles of cheap pinot grigio to cook with so we don’t have to open a large bottle, or dent the bottle that we plan on drinking from. When we become wealthy for whatever reason wealth will come to us, we may use the barolo that a recipe suggests, but until then it will be cheap table wine.
Risotto with Porcini, Saffron & Red Wine
- 1 cup of carnaroli or Arborio rice (Italians measure rice by demitasse cups, 1 cup for each person and one for the pot)
- ½ an onion, chopped finely
- 1 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms (you can find these at most gourmet stores, some grocery stores as well)
- 5 cups warm water for soaking dried porcini
- 1 cup of red wine
- 1 packet of saffron powder or a few threads of saffron
- 2 tbsp butter
- a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
- salt to taste
Heat the water for the dried porcini in a pot, you want to be able to continue to simmer the broth that the porcinis will create as you are making the risotto. Soak the dried porcinis in the warm for at least 30 minutes for them to hydrate.
When the porcinis are hydrated, removed them from the broth with a slotted spoon and roughly chop.
Chop onion into fine pieces and bring the porcini broth to a simmer.
Heat a large stovetop casserole pan over medium-high heat and melt butter at the bottom of the pan, covering the pan. When the butter is melted add onion and sauté until the onion is translucent. Add rice and coat it in the butter, toasting it a bit. When the rice becomes opaque, after about 1 minute add a cup of wine to the pan, enough to cover the rice, stir frequently.
When the rice has absorbed the wine, add a ladleful of broth to the pan and continue stirring. Repeat and once the rice starts to absorb the broth add the porcini mushrooms. Continue adding the broth as the rice absorbs it, you want it to almost dry out before adding the broth each time. Add the saffron powder or threads to the risotto towards the end of its cooking.
When the rice is finished it should be al dente and all of the liquid should be absorbed. Remove from heat and toss chopped parsley in. Serve immediately.