Leek, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto (Gluten Free)

Here in the Northeast, winter has started early. We have been seeing temperatures hover in the 30 degree mark for weeks. Normally we don’t experience this chill until late January early February. In fact, New York had one of it’s biggest snow storms in recorded history just two weeks ago dumping almost 3 feet of snow with the wind drifts.

My everyday walk with my dog for 40 minutes has now dwindled down to a quick hop and jump up the block and around in 10 minutes flat. So both my dog and I have a lot of pented up energy. He has been sniffing away at my garbage, wrestling with all my papers in there, and I have been cooking good ol’ comfort foods.

This past week I returned to my Italian fare… Risotto.

As a child I used to visit with my famalia in Italia every year, twice a year. I would stay with my aunt, who regularly made pasta every night for dinner. Sometimes she would indulge herself into making a Risotto. This would involve nursing this creamy dish for at least a good hour, while her armed tired from the stirring of this heavy dish. It was a good workout as beads of sweat used to gather by her brow. I think she enjoyed it.

Interestingly with all the pasta mia familia consumed, everyone of my cousins was THIN. Go figure… (no pun intended). Fresh pasta with a fresh suggo (marinara sauce) paired with red wine (for the adults) was a diet to thinness.

In any event, back to this Leek, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto I prepared. The combination of leeks with the chewy texture of mushrooms already lends this dish to a hearty fare. The lemon just lightens up the flavor with a delicate sprinkling of Parmesan. What’s even more perfect about this dish is that everyone, including the kids will love it. It is just that good and versatile.

To clean leeks: with a knife slit the leek lengthwise and clean between the layers with running water
The rice is first cooked briefly in a soffritto (flavor base) of onion and butter to coat each grain in a film of fat, this is called tostatura. When it has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and very hot vegetable stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly: stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. At that point it is taken off the heat for the mantecatura when diced cold butter and finely grated Parmigiano cheese is vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier, and left to cook with its residual heat.
Serves 4
2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
8 ounces Cremini mushrooms, wiped and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
6 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 3/4 cups short grain brown rice
5 cups hot vegetable stock
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesen cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the garlic for 1 minute taking care not to burn it. Add the leeks, mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until softened and browned. Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to the pan and cook the onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until golden and soft.
  3. Stir in the rice and cook for about 1 minute. Add a ladleful of the stock to the pan and cook gently, stirring occasionally until all the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Gently stir in more liquid as each ladleful is absorbed; this should take 20-25 minutes in all. The risotto will turn thick and creamy, and the rice should be tender, but not sticky or gluey.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the leek and mushroom mixture, remaining butter, grated lemon zest and juice and half the Parmesan. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  6. When serving, sprinkle remaining Parmesan and springs of flat leaf parsley.

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