mushroom risotto

in these dark, slow days of winter it is easy to feel down. for me, the lack of sunlight, and the bitter cold combine to eek away any happiness i manage to store up during the warmer months. much of this is probably due to common winter blues, but knowing this only convinces me to never live in those countries with longer winters and higher suicide rates, but doesn't really make me feel any better. feeling the sun on my face on a rare quiet afternoon at home, while panes of glass and a fortunately positioned radiator simulate the heat of sunshine, does a much better job of lifting my spirits. so does this creamy, fragrant risotto; the mindless stirring while the individual rice kernels undergo their transformation from toasty grains to creamy collective smoothness is very soothing, as are the warm gusts of earthiness you get from sauteing the mushrooms. risotto, along with a good book (or a partner for cards!), and a glass of wine is all i need to bring some warmth to those bleaker nights.

mushroom risotto, adapted from america's test kitchen

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed in mesh strainer under running water
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups mushroom broth
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 pounds cremini mushrooms, wiped clean with a paper towel, stems discarded, and caps cut into fourths
2 oyster mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped roughly
5 shallots, chopped fine
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 pound arborio rice (2 1/8 cups)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese, finely grated
ground black pepper

bring broths to simmer in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. cover and keep warm on lowest flame possible.

melt 4 tablespoons butter in large dutch oven- i used a 3 1/2 quart dutch oven. add shallots, 1/2 teaspoons salt, and the porcini mushrooms. cook until onions are lightly browned, about 10 mins.

stir in rice and cook until edges begin to translucent, about 3 mins. add lemon juice and 1 cup of broth, stirring frequently until it is completely absorbed, about 2 mins. add three cups of broth, and bring to a simmer. cook, stirring occasionally until liquid is absorbed, about 11 mins.

continue to cook, stirring in roughly 1/2 cup of broth every few mintues, until rice is cooked through but is still somewhat firm in the center, another 11 mins or so.

while rice is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in separate skillet, over medium high heat until bubbling. add in mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. cook until mushrooms and browned and have released all their liquid, and liquid has evaporated. stir in garlic for 15 seconds. remove from heat and keep warm.

stir in Parmesan cheese and warm mushrooms to rice. season with salt and pepper to taste. serve with slivers of Parmesan in warmed bowls.

broths: $5.78
mushrooms: $5.43
rice: $2.29
other: $2.00
total: $15.50 for 6 servings, about $2.50 each serving. pretty cheap!

ps. did you know, according to mark bittman in a recent NYT article, you can keep Parmesan in your fridge for a year?!

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