Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion 
Mild and comforting wild mushroom risotto is stirred slowly as stock and mushrooms are added.

Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion Mild and comforting wild mushroom risotto is stirred slowly as stock and mushrooms are added.

Risotto to get lost in

This wild mushroom risotto is mild and comforting

When we were 5 years old, our mother read “The Last Unicorn” to us. I remember lying across her puffy white blankets with my head on her lap and my mind far away. She read quickly, and with great passion, for if she was forced to bring us back before the journey was completed, the spell would be broken. She read until the last page had been turned, and then tucked her drowsy daughters into their bed with their heads in the clouds, magic pouring from their hearts, forever changed.

No longer would Seuss or Carle satisfy my eager imagination. I began to take books from her library, devouring them one by one, longing to be transported to any world but ours. Through school I always had a book in my hands. Every recess, every bus ride, every evening meant for homework was spent tucked into a quiet corner of the house, learning and dreaming and loving vicariously through the heroes and villains of my novels. Just like my mother, once I read the first page, I was compelled to finish it as fast as I could. I gobbled each up in a day or two, unable to accomplish much else until the story came to an end, because once the spell was broken, I found it impossible to return.

When I am engrossed in a story, I choose to cook dishes that require me to park myself in front of the stove for a good long while, book in hand. Babysitting risotto is an excellent excuse to lose yourself for a little while longer.

This wild mushroom risotto is mild and comforting, like my mother’s sweet voice was. It has now been 15 years since her story ended, and I miss her all the time.


1 cup arborio rice

3-4 cups mushroom or vegetable stock (you won’t use all of it, but better to have too much than too little)

1 cup finely chopped white onion

4 tablespoons butter, divided in half

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 cup sliced mushrooms — I used a mixture of fresh cremini and rehydrated wild porcini

1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

¼ cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Fresh parsley for garnish


Head your stock until steaming and keep it hot.

Cook your mushrooms in a completely dry pan until they have released all their moisture and have browned slightly. Do not use any fat or salt in this stage. Set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan, saute your onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat until just beginning to brown.

Add the rice and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to keep from burning, until the rice begins to turn translucent. Season with salt.

Add a couple ladles of hot stock, enough to cover the rice for this first addition, and gently stir.

Drop the heat to medium-low and cook until the rice has absorbed all the liquid, occasionally and very gently stirring, then add another ladle of hot stock.

Continue adding stock and cooking until the liquid is absorbed, very gently stirring all the while, until the rice is nearly cooked.

Add the mushrooms.

Add more stock, half a ladle at a time now, and cook down until the rice is fully cooked but not soggy.

Add the cream and cook another few minutes. The texture should be creamy — not soupy or gummy.

Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining butter and Parmesan. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with fresh parsley.

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