Risotto made with fresh mushrooms and good Parmesan cheese is a treat. Credit: Sandy Oliver / Contributed

Good warm for supper as a main dish or a side, and lovely the next day at room temperature served on lettuce for a salad, mushroom risotto makes a perfect summer meal especially if you are blessed with a source of outstanding fresh mushrooms.

We are blessed here on Islesboro to have a young mushroom grower Dustin Reidy, who is raising a variety of mushrooms, including lion’s mane, oyster, shitake and others that we acquire at our local store or the farmer’s market.

What a treat.

Fortunately in Maine, several companies have sprung up to support smaller producers, and even home mushroom growers, so finding locally raised mushrooms is easier than before. Professional foragers bring wild mushrooms to small markets; I’ve seen them at the local co-op. Even chain grocery stores now offer a wider variety of mushrooms than before (like the previous century when I was born). Easily obtained portabellas are perfect in this dish, and there are usually a couple other kinds as well in the produce section.

On Sunday this week, Dustin offered up oyster mushrooms at the little farmer’s market where I sell vegetables and herbs. My summer helper Cris Lerose, who is a wonderful cook, spotted them and proposed making mushroom risotto for supper. Since he was cooking, I thought that sounded like a wonderful idea.

I have made risotto before but am not by any means adept at it, and so decided to watch closely and share it with you because, really, it’s not that hard and the result is wonderful.

        I hear people say that making risotto is a pain because you have to stir it all the time. Cris said, “What else are you going to do with 25 minutes of your time?” After all, what else tops cooking a nice meal for yourself and family or friends?

        You do have to use arborio rice, a very thick rice that becomes quite creamy during the cooking process. It is easily found in most stores.

Don’t skip the white wine. It is the first liquid added to the rice and it cooks off pretty quickly leaving behind a lovely flavor. Avoid the stuff sold as cooking wine — a good little pinot grigio works. After that, simple chicken stock is fine and perhaps hot water, sometimes only as hot as tap water. Be sure to use real Parmesan which you grate yourself, and not the pre-grated kind in a box or bag. Imported Italian Parmesan is really different and not that hard to work with.

Treat yourself.

        This can be a one pan meal. Cook the mushrooms and put them in a bowl, set aside. Or you may prefer to cook them in a separate pan. Cut them in chunks, not slices, and cook over a medium high heat, so they brown a little. You want them to be firm, not squishy.

        Once the risotto is made, mushrooms, seafood, chicken, or vegetables like asparagus or peas stirred in give the risotto a lot of character. With salad it can make a light meal.

        We sat on the front porch, with the wide bowls I like to use for pasta — and now for risotto too — and ate, with a glass of wine and the new resident cat Yandro rubbing against our legs. I told him he wouldn’t like risotto, but I surely did.

Fresh Mushroom Risotto

Serves 2 as a main dish; 4 as a side dish

Olive oil

8 ounces fresh mushrooms, cut into chunks

1 medium onion, diced

1 clove garlic finely minced

1 cup arborio rice

1 cup white wine

2-3 cups hot chicken stock and water

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon butter

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy pan over medium high heat and sauté mushrooms, browning them lightly for about 5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.

Using the same pan or a separate one, over a medium high heat, add a couple tablespoons of oil and cook the onion and garlic briefly, about 2 minutes.

Add the rice, and cook stirring for another couple of minutes to heat it, then add the wine. It will bubble vigorously. Stir until the wine is absorbed and the pan begins to dry just a little.

Add about a cup of the hot stock and cook, stirring and pulling rice from the edges of the pan into the center.

Reduce the heat to medium, continuing to stir, and as the liquid is absorbed and the rice becomes creamy, add a small amount of stock, about a quarter of a cup at a time. You can also change to hot water if you wish.

Continue cooking, stirring gently, until the rice is tender. The mixture should be somewhat creamy and the rice grains tender but separate.

Add the butter and grated Parmesan, mixing them in well, then add the mushrooms. Taste and add salt if you wish.


Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...