Perhaps you and I are alike. You live life guided by a set of rules or priorities ranging from silly to serious. You skip or trudge along depending on present circumstances; at times you are more proactive about those rules and most others you find yourself just reacting, not really in control. You eke out some alone time for self-reflection. This (re)balancing act occurs for many of us throughout the year but a new calendar on the wall always seems to signal new promises…fresh starts.
Have I got you properly melancholy now? I’m sorry…please don’t go. This is New Year’s Eve. It’s a time for celebration so I won’t bore you with heavy rumination–no, no, no. As I say goodbye to 2010 I take with me fond memories and this is largely due to you. Who would have thought that I would connect with so many good people writing about food? You’ve all enriched my life by coming here to read my ramblings and I THANK YOU SO MUCH!
But I would like to share some of my resolutions with you. Perhaps if I share them with the world more accountability would follow. This, my first blogging year has been wonderful but I have seen some bad habits form that I would like to break…and pronto!
- Deep down I’m a simple girl, I may even be considered low maintenance, but I do enjoy trying to look my best (occasionally) and I will admit that I’m not quite ready to bid adieu to vanity. There, I’ve said it. I’ve been in the same size range for most of my life but over the last few months I’ve noticed a little more love from my clothes—they’ve been hugging me just a little too tightly. It’s all the baking, you see. I’ve enjoyed it so much and by the time I realized that I should be giving away most of my efforts the damage was done. So, I resolve to be more careful. The only muffin tops I want to see forming should be in my oven and the only ripples in the water.
- It’s only fitting that the preceding should be followed by my resolve to return to my regular exercise habits. There was a time when I cycled around 150 miles per week and our New Year’s Day tradition was to cycle up Mount Hamilton, an 18-mile uphill climb that was more fun than challenging. This year it won’t be happening. I’d be calling for rescue halfway up. I’ve not managed my time wisely at all, the baking bug got me. This must change, too. My husband has started to refer to my cycling with him in the past tense. Yikes!
- I also resolve not to be so obsessed with this blog. I’ve had so much fun with it and I want to do so much more but this brings out the competitive (against me) Jean. I have a new site that’s been in maintenance mode for months because I think it’s not “good enough”. I struggle with my photography and find myself arranging my cooking schedule according to optimum photography conditions. I look at my blog stats multiple times a day–though I sometimes feel embarrassment that I share (uninteresting) tidbits of my life with you here, there’s another part of me that says, yes, please visit…and often! I resolve to find a balance to do what I enjoy without letting the unimportant aspects of it consume me.
- Finally, you may have noticed that the common chord among the previous three has to do with how I’ve used my time. If I manage it wisely, I can find the time to do these things properly. One thing that has been gnawing at me is that I have stopped my volunteer work. I volunteered at Stanford Hospital for a few years–administrative changes removed the position I shared with others but now I hear it’s back. I’ll share more of this with you another time. For now, I’ll just say that I will make an effort to bring this back in my life. I’ll make time.
In spirit of ringing in the new year in good health I decided to share this rich, decadent but not unhealthy risotto dish. Dried porcini mushrooms are perhaps not an everyday ingredient to enjoy but I prize them and they warrant being used on special occasions. They’re naturally woodsy and earthy and when dried these flavors are intensified. When I travel to Italy, I immediately seek out a bag to take home (more economical) or sometimes I replenish by purchasing online. A little goes a long way since the liquid that is used to rehydrate the porcini mushrooms becomes a very flavorful stock.
In this case I used roughly 1 – 1 1/2 cups of dried porcini mushrooms. Yes, this was a bit of a treat but I haven’t used my stash much all year. Feel free to substitute chanterelles or shiitakes instead. You may achieve a slight variance in flavor but the overall effect should be similar. I also found a Rouxbe recipe which uses vermouth (won’t let me link for some reason) so I borrowed that idea since I had just enough leftover to use here.
This risotto is rich in color and flavor, all because of the dried porcini mushrooms and the liquid. The vermouth lent even more depth of flavor without drowning the essence of the mushrooms. Topped with just a bit of cheese, this was a truly a special eve of New Year’s Eve meal.
Porcini Mushroom Risotto
- 2 cups arborio rice
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups dried porcini mushrooms (you can substitute other dried variety)
- 1 cup fresh crimini mushrooms, chopped
- 3 – 4 shallots, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- About six cups of combination of chicken stock, water and/or mushroom liquid (I used 4 cups stock, 1 1/2 cups mushroom liquid and remainder water)
- 1 cup vermouth (can substitute chicken stock)
- Olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- Squeeze of lemon juice, optional
- Parmigiano Reggiano for garnish
- Chopped Italian parsley for garnish
To prepare the mushrooms: Soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes to rehydrate. Strain the mushrooms and chop; reserve the liquid.
Simmer the stock in a separate pot on the stove.
To prepare the risotto: Sauté the onions in a bit of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat until they’re translucent. Add salt to help the “sweating” process if you wish. After about four minutes, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Next add the mushrooms and cook for about five minutes. Your mixture will be dry in the pan at this point. Add some freshly ground black pepper if desired.
When the mushrooms have cooked a bit, add the rice and allow to cook in the pan for about 3 minutes. Be sure to stir the mixture so it doesn’t burn. Cook until the rice looks translucent on the ends. Add the vermouth and cook until it’s absorbed by the rice. Continue cooking the rice by adding a cup of chicken stock at a time. Stir frequently to avoid burning and only add the next cup of liquid until the previous addition has been absorbed by the rice. I strained my mushroom liquid to separate the impurities and added this to the risotto for even more flavor (highly recommended). To balance out the flavors, I used a bit of water to supplement the chicken stock.
The risotto should not be overcooked. It will take about 25 minutes of stirring and adding liquid until it’s done. The rice should have a little bite still and should be a little chewy. Turn off the heat and add a small amount of butter to add shine and a bit of creaminess. You can add a squeeze of lemon juice but this is just my preference. Plate and garnish with chopped parsley and cheese.
Happy New Year!!!