When deciding what to cook for Valentine’s Day (or, really, any special occasion), it seems like a lot of the time and effort goes into the entrees and the desserts. Of course, you need a perfectly-grilled steak, lobster tail and ooey, gooey chocolate lava cake for a romantic dinner at home. But when it comes to what to serve alongside that surf and turf, well, a lot of us just throw some baked potatoes in the oven and call it a day. If you want to make every part of your dinner plate a wonder, whip up a batch of mushroom risotto.
Risotto, a delicious rice dish that originated in Italy, is a notoriously laborious dish to make. This isn’t because there are dozens of ingredients that are hard to prep or because complicated techniques are involved during the cooking process.
No, risotto is considered difficult because it takes a lot of time and a lot of stirring. But the end result is a luxurious, creamy rice dish that is fragrant with the flavors of wine, butter and Parmesan, so trust us: all that time-consuming stirring is worth it.
To keep things moving along as quickly as possible, keep your broth simmering on the stove next to your risotto. Adding lukewarm or cold broth would work, but the dish will take way longer to cook.
There are a million mushroom risotto recipes out there, but what gives this one such a luxurious texture and makes it so special is whipped cream. No, not the sweet stuff you put on an ice cream sundae, but rather plain cream that is whipped just until it reaches soft peaks. The whipped cream is folded in at the very end to push the risotto into decadent territory.
Like many dishes for special occasions, the secret to a great risotto is in using high-quality ingredients. This is no time to skimp. For this mushroom risotto, don’t just use any ol' wine and a can of shakable Parmesan cheese. Splurge a bit for nice, dry and crisp white wine (like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio) and grate your own Parmesan from a good-quality block of cheese. It's also important to use a combination of earthy mushrooms for the topping. We like oyster, chanterelle or maitake. Your everyday white button mushrooms just won't cut it.
This mushroom risotto makes a great side for a simply seasoned but well prepared protein, like lamb shanks, shrimp or prime rib. But it’s also a great vegetarian-friendly entree for two and pairs well with a simple salad. Not sure what else to pair with your risotto this weekend? Consider our 25 best recipes for Valentine’s Day at home.
Recipe by Jessica Chou
For the mushroom topping:
For the risotto:
For the mushroom topping:
Step 1: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until foaming.
Step 2: Add 3 1/2 ounces mushrooms, 2 sprigs of thyme and 2 sprigs of parsley, and cook to soften. Season with salt and pepper, to taste and set aside.
For the risotto:
Step 1: In a medium-sized pot, bring 4 cups chicken broth to a simmer over medium heat. Keep to a low simmer.
Step 2: Meanwhile, place 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream in a mixing bowl and beat using an electric mixer or by hand until soft peaks form. (The cream should just curl over softly when the whisk is held up.)
Step 3: In a large pot, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. When it foams, add 1/2 cup finely chopped onion and cook until translucent.
Step 4: Add 1 cup rice to the butter and onion mixture, and mix vigorously for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup white wine and let the wine soak into the rice until evaporated. Stir vigorously, scraping the bottom so the rice doesn't stick, until the rice has toasted, about 2 minutes.
Step 5: Add enough broth to cover the rice and cook, stirring frequently. When the rice has soaked up the broth (take a spoon and run it through; if the broth doesn't pool, it is ready), add another 1/2 cup of broth. Stir frequently until it has soaked in. Repeat with 1/2 cup increments until the rice is al dente.
Step 6: Once the rice is ready (there should be a bite, but the center should be cooked through), remove from the heat and vigorously stir in the remaining 1/4 cup butter, about 1-2 tablespoons at a time, with a wooden spoon. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan and half of the lighly whipped cream.
Step 7: Taste, and if it's not creamy enough, add the remaining cream.
Step 8: Season with salt, to taste, and spoon onto plates. Top with the mushroom topping and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.