Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Risotto

This Chestnut and Mushroom Risotto recipe from 'Venice' by Russell Norman is rich with warming Italian flavours and classic seasonal ingredients.

From the book

Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking by
Venice: Four Seasons of Home Cooking
Authentic Venetian dishes across all four seasons
Delicious pasta and risotto recipes
Stunning food and travel photography

Introduction

Although there are excellent fresh mushrooms available throughout November and December, I am partial to the dried variety you can pick up in delicatessens. In my local alimentari, Ortis, they sell dried marzolini, also known as mousserons in France and St George’s mushrooms in England. They are amazing and taste even more intense after being dried, then reanimated with warm water. Furthermore, the water in which the mushrooms have soaked lends another hit of umami to the risotto in a way that fresh mushrooms cannot.

I marry the deeply delicious porcini and marzolini here with chestnuts for an unequivocally wintery combination of flavours and textures. You will also notice that I use butter instead of olive oil to sauté the shallots. This is a traditional variation in northern Italy, dating back to the era before the 1950s when olive oil from the south wasn’t readily available.

Only purists, traditionalists and very old people cook this way these days, but I really like the creaminess you get with this method.

Serves 4

Ingredients

12 chestnuts
50g dried porcini
50g dried marzolini (mousserons)
1.5 litres chicken stock
100g butter
2 large banana shallots, very finely chopped
flaky sea salt
350g Carnaroli rice
a glass of dry vermouth
a handful of flat parsley leaves
120g Parmesan, grated
freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

First, preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas 4. Using a small knife with a very sharp point, score the chestnuts with a single shallow incision from one side to the other. Scatter on a baking tray and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until starting to brown. Remove and allow to cool before peeling. Break the chestnuts roughly with your hands. Set aside.

While the chestnuts are roasting, soak the dried mushrooms in half a litre of boiled hot water for about 20 minutes. Drain and retain the soaking water.

Now heat the stock in a large pan and bring to a very gentle bubble. Leave simmering with a ladle close by.

Melt half the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat and add the chopped shallots with a few pinches of salt. Sauté until glossy and translucent, turning frequently with a wooden spoon, then add the rice. Make sure every grain is coated.

Pour in the vermouth, inhale the delicious cloud of steam, and when the liquid has nearly evaporated, add 1 ladle of stock and stir. Repeat this for 10 minutes, carefully adding the stock a little at a time, never allowing the rice to dry out but not flooding it either. Carefully add the mushrooms and stir once or twice with a wooden spoon. Now add a little of the mushroom soaking water, a bit at a time, for a further 5 minutes.

When the rice is almost done, but still has a bit of bite (test a grain between your front teeth), add a final splash of stock, the remaining butter and the chestnuts, and turn up the heat just a little. Add the parsley, very gently stir, cook for a final 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Sprinkle in most of the Parmesan, turn over once and cover. Rest for a minute.

Serve in warmed bowls, with a twist of black pepper and the remaining Parmesan scattered over the top.

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