Here’s a friendly tip: make yourself buy an exotic ingredient even if you’re not sure what you’re going to do with it.
For example, a few weeks ago I was at the Spice Station in Silverlake and I bought a little bag of white truffle salt. I bought it because after sniffing from the giant jar of it, I was like: “Whoah, that’s really potent and really smells like white truffles.” A small bag cost about $10 or so which is way less than you’d pay for an actual white truffle. And knowing that I had it, I kept my eyes open later that week at the farmer’s market for anything that might work well with it; which is how I ended up buying a bag of chanterelle mushrooms.
So there they were, my two lavish purchases: a bag of white truffle salt and a bag of chanterelle mushrooms (last seen on my blog on goat cheese on toast) and the question was, “What to do with them?” The answer was easy. Risotto!
Based on a technique I learned from Cesare Casella in a video I can no longer find online, I began by heating butter in two nonstick skillets while bringing 6 to 8 cups of chicken broth (homemade) to a simmer:
Then, when the butter was hot and foamy, I added the mushrooms–which I cleaned but didn’t cut–into the two skillets:
I figured two skillets meant less mushrooms per skillet, allowing more mushrooms to have direct contact with the heat so they wouldn’t steam. Of course, I added a few pinches of truffle salt as they cooked and when they were close to being brown and had released all their liquid, I added a little chopped garlic and chopped parsley and took the pans off the heat.
Then I set about making the risotto.
In a large, wide, deep pan, I melted about 2 tablespoons of butter and when it was hot and foamy, I added about 1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice. I cooked the rice in the butter for 30 seconds or so:
And then added a cup of dry white wine and lowered the heat. When the wine was absorbed (and you don’t want it to go in too quickly, so make sure that heat is low), I added a big ladleful or two of stock (which I salted to taste) so that the rice was covered. I also added a few mushrooms from the mushroom pan:
And so the risotto-making truly begin; stirring every so often, watching the temperature, adding ladlefuls of stock any time it got low and a few mushrooms here and there, saving most of the mushrooms for the end. The goal is to have that stock go in slowly, but not too slowly; you want some bubbles but not crazy bubbles. It’s really a sense-thing: after 20 minutes or so, start tasting your rice. When the risotto is creamy and still toothsome, you’re ready to finish.
This is the funnest part; it’s called mantecare and it’s the step where you take the risotto off the heat and work in more butter and cheese (Parmesan):
Stir those in rapidly and taste. Here’s where I added big sprinklings of truffle salt to really catch that truffle flavor.
To serve, I poured the risotto on to two plates (the way Chef Casella taught me; you eat from the outside in, where it’s hottest) and topped with the rest of the mushrooms and some extra grated cheese.
I’ll be honest: these chanterelles, from the West Hollywood farmer’s market, weren’t so special. They weren’t especially fragrant in their raw state, so I didn’t feel so bad helping them along with garlic and truffle salt.
This risotto, on the other hand, was something else. Creamy, rich, and slightly funky from the truffle salt, it’s a reminder that great food is just a needless purchase away. So the next time you see an ingredient you don’t really need, buy it anyway. That’s how dinners like this happen.