alcohol | cheese | cooking | food | meals | mushrooms | onion | rice | risotto | savory | white wine

“Waiter, there’s fungi in my risotto!”

February 10, 2010

Before I get started talking about fungus, I wanna say how much I appreciate all my readers and fans. There’s no smooth transition between talking about fungi and my fans, or vice versa, so I won’t even try. I just wanted to tell you all that I really do appreciate you, every single one of you, and I love all the awesome comments and e-mails I get from you. You guys are the best, and because you all give me such rad feedback and keep me going, it makes me doing this site so much more fun. So thank you, seriously. I am not exaggerating when I say you’re all that and a frosted cupcake, for sure.  Speaking of cupcakes, if I could send each and every one of you a cupcake with frosting piled 4 inches high and a big hug, I would. Don’t worry- I’m not losing my edge. I guess since Valentine’s Day is coming I got a little sappy there… but it’s all the truth. Allright, enough, now let’s talk about food.

I’ve said many times before, I LOVE RISOTTO. It’s one of my favorite dishes to make at home. I have about five recipes for it on this website alone. In restaurants, I find myself being very picky and somewhat snobbish about it. I’ve only encountered one risotto that was satisfactory to my taste and expectations on L.I.- at Wall’s Wharf in Bayville, the mushroom risotto. Other than that, it’s always been either too dry, too rubbery, too much like regular rice, or too mushy. So I usually just stick to making it myself and choosing other dishes when dining out.

Okay so, me and mushrooms have a troubled history. I don’t love them. I tolerate them in certain dishes, but I’m not really what you would call a mushroom lover. However, while doing my grocery shopping the other day I thought, “Why don’t I buy these beauteous baby bella mushrooms and do something with them?” I don’t know if I had accidentally ingested acid earlier in the day, or if indeed I’m beginning to *gasp* actually like mushrooms. I’ll go with ‘a’  just to save my reputation.

A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. The standard for the name “mushroom” is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, hence the word mushroom is most often applied to those fungi (Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetes) that have a stem (stipe), a cap (pileus), and gills (lamellae, sing. lamella) on the underside of the cap, just as do store-bought white mushrooms.

The word “mushroom” can also be used for a wide variety of gilled fungi, with or without stems, and the term is used even more generally, to describe both the fleshy fruiting bodies of some Ascomycota and the woody or leathery fruiting bodies of some Basidiomycota, depending upon the context of the word.

Forms deviating from the standard morphology usually have more specific names, such as “puffball“, “stinkhorn“, and “morel“, and gilled mushrooms themselves are often called “agarics” in reference to their similarity to Agaricus or their placement in the order Agaricales. By extension, the term “mushroom” can also designate the entire fungus when in culture or the thallus (called a mycelium) of species forming the fruiting bodies called mushrooms, or the species itself.

I’ve always found it odd that mushrooms are even a part of our human diet- considering they’re a fungus. It’s like eating bleu cheese, sorta, because you’re essentially eating mold (bleu cheese is one of my favorite cheeses, by the way). But nevertheless, there they are, in all their glory, with their little caps and stems looking like something out of Alice In Wonderland. And we buy ’em and stuff them and saute them and put them on pizza and in risotto and some people even use them as the “burger” in a faux-hamburger! Oh, mushrooms, you so crazy. Isn’t it funny that a society that has so many germophobic tendencies, and obsessions with cleanliness and getting rid of dirt and mold and fungus, actually enjoy eating those very things?

So here’s a dee-rish-us recipe from Tyler Florence. I will tell you here that I only used baby bella mushrooms, an 8 oz package, and it was plenty as far as I’m concerned. If you’re a big mushroom fan, do as you like. I also didn’t use truffle oil, just regular olive oil. I didn’t garnish with parsley either. Rebel, rebel.



  • 8 cups chicken broth, low sodium
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, diced, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1 pound fresh portobello and crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • 1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms, wiped of grit
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Fresh Italian parsley, for garnish


  1. Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ½ onion and 1 clove garlic, cook, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, herbs and butter. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle in truffle oil then add the dried porcini mushrooms which were reconstituted in1 cup of warm chicken broth. Season again with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Saute 1 minute then remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Coat a saucepan with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Saute the remaining ½ onion and garlic clove. Add the rice and stir quickly until it is well-coated and opaque, 1 minute. This step cooks the starchy coating and prevents the grains from sticking. Stir in wine and cook until it is nearly all evaporated.
  4. Now, with a ladle, add 1 cup of the warm broth and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time. Continue to cook and stir, allowing the rice to absorb each addition of broth before adding more. The risotto should be slightly firm and creamy, not mushy. Transfer the mushrooms to the rice mixture. Stir in Parmesan cheese, cook briefly until melted. Top with a drizzle of truffle oil and chopped parsley before serving.
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  1. Hehe, I am the same way about risottos – even ate at Risotteria and my boyfriend whispered to me “I like yours better.” I load mine up with herbs. I should do a mushroom risotto again sometime, mine usually involve some kind of squash.

  2. I usually stick with either plain risotto, either red wine or white, and some cheese… or with vegetables- peas, etc. I’ve made it with shrimp which was divine. But this was my first mushroom attempt. I really liked it, I’ll definitely make it again.

    Don’t you love that- when someone tells you your stuff is better than a restaurant/bakery’s stuff? I think it just must be hard for restaurants to make it the right way, they’d need a million chefs stirring a million pots all day haha. So I’ll stick to making it myself 😉

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