My little black truffle: You knew I had to come back to it. It’s like a little black dress—it just keeps giving time and time again. I can’t receive a black truffle for Christmas from my good friend Ian Adams and only give KB readers one simple but insanely delicious recipe for baked eggs with black truffles, now can I?
Nope, the black truffle brings a flavorful punch to other foods besides eggs. Because of its fragrant, pungent aroma and delicate nature, it’s best used raw or mixed into a cooked dish at the last second. It didn’t take me long to decide what dish I wanted to use the truffle for next—the Italian classic, mushroom risotto.
A tuber that grows underground near the roots of a certain species of oak, black truffles are closely related to mushrooms, their fungal cousin. As such, their earthy flavors work and play well together, and risotto is their perfect meeting place.
Risotto refers to the cooking method, not to the rice itself. The rice used in risotto is most often Arborio, which you can find in pretty much any grocery store these days in the ‘ethnic’ or Italian aisle. Canaroli is the more expensive and often preferred grain of rice in Italy, although I don’t think I’ve seen it here. These rice varieties are short or medium grain and have the ability to absorb large amounts of liquid and to release starch, which is what make risotto so much creamier than other rice dishes.
The risotto method is simple, but time consuming. You know those kids you have to watch like a hawk because you’re never sure just what they’re going to get into? Risotto is that child. You have to babysit it for it to turn out perfectly. It’s not difficult—it just requires a watchful eye and a quick hand. So, how do you do it? All risottos start the same: Making a flavor base by sautéing your aromatics (in this case, shallots & mushrooms), add the rice and sauté for a few minutes more, deglaze with white wine, and then slowly add chicken broth to the rice, waiting for it to absorb the liquid before adding more. Once the rice is tender and has a firm bite to it, add cheese and garnish, and serve. When the garnish is black truffle shavings or white truffle oil, risotto goes from comforting to outright luxurious. And who doesn’t yearn for luxury in the middle winter?
Mushroom Risotto with Black Truffles
Serves 4-6 as a main course, 6-10 as a side dish. Both the mascarpone and the cream can be omitted in this dish and replaced with ½ c. Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. White truffle oil, a much less expensive alternative, can also be substituted for the black truffle shavings. Total Time: 30-45 minutes. Click here to download a copy of this recipe.
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 pint assorted mushrooms (Cremini, shiitake, oyster, etc.), cleaned and sliced
3 shallots, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1 c. white wine
2 c. Arborio rice
6 c. chicken or vegetable stock
¼ c. heavy cream or half and half, scant
¼ c. mascarpone or Parmesan cheese
Black truffle shavings, about one-quarter of an ounce, divided
Heat the chicken stock in a small saucepan and keep warm over low heat.
Prepare the flavor base. Meanwhile, heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and oil. When hot, add mushrooms and sauté until brown. Add shallots, garlic and thyme, season with salt and pepper, and sauté 1 minute more. Add rice and sauté until the grains are coated in fat and turning opaque. This prevents the grains from sticking together.
Add liquid. Add the white wine to the pan and stir vigorously until the rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid. Then, using a ladle, pour a half-cup of the warm chicken stock into the rice, stirring very frequently until the rice has absorbed almost all of the stock. Repeat, one half-cup of stock at a time, until the rice has just the slightest bite in the center. (There might be stock leftover.) It should be tender and creamy, but not mushy. For a little extra creaminess, add a scant quarter cup of cream and a few tablespoons of mascarpone to the risotto. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley and a few of the truffle shavings. Serve in bowls or plates garnished with the rest of the truffle shavings.