Mushroom Risotto

Growing up in China, we eat rice for almost every meal, a warm bowl of congee for breakfast, a plate of savory & oily fried rice for lunch, and some light & fully steamed rice for dinner. Since rice was brought to Italy in the 1400s by spice merchants through the silk road, and most rice dishes around the world have a Chinese root, that’s why when I started cooking in an Italian restaurant, risotto was the first thing that I mastered, a creamy, tender rice dish that is perfect for almost any occasion. It’s perfect as the primo, a dish before the main course; however, it is also perfect with osso buco alla milanese, which is one of my favorite Italian dishes.

Since risotto is a dish that the city Milan is famous for, it requires some butter (most Italian dish uses only olive oil, but not this one), and the lovely mushrooms that can only be find in the northern Italian forests. Some of these mushroom might be hard to find, but I will provide a more common substitute in the recipe.

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You’ll Need:

  • 400 mL or 1 3/4 cup stock (chicken stock image3normally, you can use vegetable stock for vegetarian/vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 tbsp or 75 g unsalted butter (replace wit margarine for vegan)
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb length celery
  • 30 g or 1 oz  dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water
    • dried porcini mushroom, bold nutty flavor (common)
    • dried shiitake mushroom, earthy & smokey flavors (common)
    • dried chanterelle mushroom, subtle peppery & apricot flavors with firm texture (common)
    • dried morels, strong beefy flavors (rare & expensive)
  • 200 g or 7 oz mushrooms
    • crimini mushroom, mild flavor (common)
    • shiitake mushroom, rich, buttery, and meaty flavors (common)
    • trumpet mushroom, similar to the texture & flavor of abalone when cooked (optional)
    • maitake mushroom, intense fruity, earthy and spicy flavors and absorb companion flavors when cooked (optional)
    • pioppini mushroom, peppery flavors with a firm texture (optional)
    • shimeji/clamshell mushroom, delicate shellfish-like flavor with firm texture (optional)
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 200 g or 7 oz rice
    • arborio rice , short grain, starchy and firm (common)
    • carnaroli, maratelli and Vialone Nano, traditional but hard to find (rare & expensive)
  • 125 mL or 1 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt  & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp freshly Parmesan cheese

How to make this:

  1. Place the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with boiling water, this will re-hydrate the mushroom.
  2. Heat up a deep pan over medium-low heat, add half of the butter with the olive oil. Peel and finely chop the celery, garlic and onion, add them into the pan with some salt & black pepper and cook them for about 10 min or until they turn soft.
  3. Add the rice into the pan, lightly fry while stirring it until it turns slightly translucent.
  4. Strain the dried mushrooms, save the liquid. Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms, add them into the pan with thyme springs, turn up the heat to medium then cook until most of the liquid are evaporated.
  5. Pour in the wine and cook until the liquid turns viscous, then add 1/2 cup of the mushroom liquid and the stock. Bring everything to a boil and reduce the heat back to medium-low, stir constantly, and cook for about 20 min, add more liquid if need.
  6. Once the rice hits al dente, pick out the thyme and add the rest of the butter with the Parmesan cheese, stir until it becomes amazingly creamy and oozy. Sever it with some extra Parmesan and herbs, and enjoy!
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Moroccan Beef Tagine

It’s always nice to have a piece of juicy sirloin or rib eye steak, but how do you cook cheaper cuts of beef like chuck or brisket? The best way to tenderize these meats through a long, low heat cooking process, so the tough fibers in the meat can have time to break down and release its amazing flavors. There are many methods you can use to tenderize the meat, smoke and stew are the most traditional ways, you can also use dry aging. However, we are going to introduce one of the oldest methods, tagine.

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You need:

  • 2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 4 dried apricots
  • 1 lb butternut squash
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup  chicken broth
  • 2 lb beef chuck roast

How to make this:

  1. Cube the beef into 1-inch chunks, marinate the beef in the spice mix (sweet smoked paprika, ground cinnamon, salt, ground ginger, crushed red pepper, ground black pepper, olive oil) overnight
  2. Heat up a pan and cook the meat until they are browned. Put the chopped onion, garlic cloves, tomatoes, chopped dried apricots and chicken broth in a tagine, cook it on medium heat till the sauce simmers. Then place the meat in the sauce, and turn the heat down to medium-low
  3. Let the tagine cook on medium-low for 2 hours, at around two hours, put the cubed butternut squash and chopped fresh cilantro, let it cook for another 30 min
  4. Serve it with some couscous or flatbread, sprinkle it with some almonds or sweet dry fruits also works