Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Finding funghi

It's that time of year again. The time to go looking for mushrooms. I look forward to hearing "Vuoi cercare i funghi?" every year. Boots on, I am out the door at the mere suggestion of a walk in the woods.

One of my favourite dishes to show off the seasons best is simply mushrooms on toast. Sautéed thick slices in butter with wine, garlic and fresh parsley makes for a quick fungus fix while oven roasting whole seasoned and dressed (with olive oil and rosemary) mushrooms makes for something slightly more posh.

When there is a bounty, we always indulge in an omlette or fritatta of mushrooms, herbs and a gorgeous complimentary cheese for a special weekend breakfast. Taleggio is a great match as are many of the more pungent washed rinds. A mushroom tart with caramelised cipolline and thyme or a filled pasta are worth any effort and are easy make-aheads for entertaining.

On our latest trip, we found a fairly substantial crop of field mushrooms lurking along the fenceline. That means we'll be adding them to dishes alot this week.

Starting with dinner.
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Field mushroom risotto

butter
olive oil
Rice ( I like vialone nano but arborio or carnaroli are good too.)
2 cups of rice, good for 4 mains or 6 entrée serves.
Mushrooms (as many as you like or as many as you've got, wiped clean and sliced as you wish.)
Hot broth/stock (vegetable, beef or chicken all work well here and rabbit is particularly nice.)
1/2 large yellow (or 1 meduim) onion, chopped fine
1-2 cloves of garlic
125mL white wine, approximate
Parmigiano reggiano or Grana padano
Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped fine

Have stock simmering on low heat. In heavy bottomed pot or enamel coated cast iron, melt a tablespoon of butter and add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. When butter is foamy, add the rice (you may need a little more butter) and turn to coat well. Cook rice until it is aromatic and takes on a slight golden hue.

Add a little wine and some stock. Continue to add stock in increments as it is absorbed, enough to keep rice from sticking to pot but not so much that the rice is swimming. Just as needed to keep coaxing the starch out of the rice.

In a sauté pan, over medium high heat, melt another tablespoon or so of olive oil and butter. Lower heat a little and add onions, garlic and mushrooms, cooking until onions and garlic are soft and mushrooms take on a golden edge. Deglaze pan with a splash of wine. While this could be a one-pot procedure, I like being able to better control the browning and the degree of doneness of a mixture of coarsely chopped and finely diced mushrooms.

When rice is done to preference and consistency is creamy but still relatively loose, remove from heat, and using a spatula, add the entire contents of the sauté pan and all cooking juices. Season with salt and pepper, stir in a liberal amount of grated cheese and a few tablespoons of parsley. Pass more cheese at the table, if desired.

Mushrooms work magnificently with many of my favourite 'off-the-beaten-track' wines. I often look for an unoaked (or minimally oaked) Viognier. Unoaked Morton Estate is all ripe peach and texturally wonderful as is Rongopai Ultimo, if you can find it. For something different, if your local carries a Marsanne or Roussanne, give them a go. Like Viognier, I find these rich, complex wines complement the herbs and mild earthiness of the mushrooms and that their acidity easily handles the rich treatment that mushrooms often get. In the red camp, where I often find myself, Te Mata Estate has a great value Gamay noir (the grape of Beaujolais) that is quite mushroom friendly and delicious.

Mangia!

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