Royal Corona Bean and Wild Mushroom Stew

Royal Corona Bean and Wild Mushroom Stew

Because I’ve always been intimidated by dried beans, I thought it might be a good idea to join the Rancho Gordo Bean Club. The company has a well-deserved reputation for high-quality products and offers a wide variety of heirloom beans, many of which cannot be found on supermarket shelves.  So, when, after two years on their waiting list, they notified me a club membership was available, I quickly signed up for quarterly shipments of six packs of beans. To date, I’ve received three deliveries and have only cooked four packs of beans, the last of which inspired today’s post: Royal Corona Bean and Wild Mushroom Stew.

Having had some success with my three previous segues into bean cooking, I decided to attempt something more daring. Rather than following the package direction for cooking the beans, I used a recipe from Alison Roman that called for cooking the beans without soaking them, uncovered, at a bare simmer for one to two hours in a rather unorthodox broth. In addition, the bean-stew recipe from the Rancho Gordo newsletter called for a couple of brand-name ingredients as well as for Swiss chard that I didn’t have on hand. But being in a daring mood, I decided to make some substitutions.

Well, my intrepid foray into bean cooking hit a few snags along the way. My beans took close to five and a half hours to cook and still were a little more al dente than I would have preferred. Likewise, the supermarket’s replacement of baby kale for the fresh kale I ordered didn’t deliver the flavor or texture I had expected.  On the brighter side of things, however, the cooking method of the beans yielded a mighty flavorful broth owing largely to its use of caramelized onions, garlic, and lemon along with dried chiles. Similarly, my substituting more dried porcini for the recipe’s brand-name seasoning blend as well as replacing the called for miso with tahini spiked with soy sauce gave the stew the woodsy and umami flavors I was looking for.

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Tuscan Meatloaf with Wild Mushrooms

Tuscan Meatloaf with Wild Mushrooms

I first made Marcella Hazan’s Tuscan meat loaf almost 45 years ago. I was a graduate student on a research fellowship in Cambridge, Massachusetts and had kitchen privileges at the home where I was rooming.  As the owners were away for the summer, I felt free to invite a couple over for dinner who were as passionate about food and cooking as I was. At that time, pre-internet, I only had a few cookbooks in my room and Hazan’s The Italian Classic Cookbook was my most recent acquisition.  I combed through the book looking for something different, something that might surprise my guests as much by its novelty as by its flavor. About midway through, I found it: Polpettone alla Toscana, Meatloaf Braised in White Wine with Dried Wild Mushrooms. Read more

Pork Chops with Porcini Mushrooms & Red Wine

Pork Chops with Porcini & Red Wine

My search for a novel recipe for pork chops led me to a well-worn cookbook on my shelves: 1,000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone. Although its title might sound a tad gimmicky, the 657-page tome comprises authentic Italian recipes by one of the most respected, and prolific, authorities on Italian cuisine.

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Pressure-Cooker Porcini Risotto

Pressure-Cooker Porcini Risotto

A serendipitous confluence of my birthday with Amazon’s Prime Day led to the arrival of an Instant Pot at our door. This trendy pressure cooker, which has sparked a passion for the appliance, was a gift from my husband, who knew I wanted one but was reluctant to replace my serviceable, though less advanced, Cuisinart model. Well, yesterday, while unboxing my shiny new toy, I felt some nostalgia for my tried-and-true cooker that’s served me well for quite a few years. So, I thought I’d make one last dish in it before its retirement.

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Mushroom Risotto with Peas


Last year, I posted my first recipe for a risotto and, in that post, discussed the performance anxiety I used to experience whenever I attempted to make one. Yet despite having conquered that fear, I haven’t made a risotto since then.  I really don’t know why.

Yesterday afternoon, however, right after a brief rain shower, it finally began to feel like fall in New York City. And I thought that, after a week of meat-centric dining, a mushroom risotto would be a seasonally welcome change. A cursory cookbook search led me to an easy recipe for a wild mushroom risotto in Giada De Laurentiis’s first cookbook, Everyday Italian.

Because of the the recipe’s proportion of cultivated to dried wild mushrooms (10 ounces to 1/2 ounce respectively), I dropped the word “wild” from the title of my post. Nevertheless, that small quantity of porcini infuses the more affordable white variety with considerable flavor and and complexity.

Being a disciple of Marcella Hazan, I modified the recipe a little. First, I toasted the rice for a couple of minutes, coating it with the fat from the pan. (In fact, the website version of the recipe does the same.) Second, to enrich the finished dish and give it a more creamy texture, I mounted it with a tablespoon of unsalted butter as I added the cheese.

Mushroom Risotto with Peas Adapted from Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis Serves 4 as a main dish; 8 as a side.

The ingredients
The ingredients

5 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 -ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup unsalted butter + 1 to 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
10 ounces white mushrooms, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms. Cover and set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board and chop fine. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.

Melt the 1/4 butter in a heavy large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes.

The softened onions
The softened onions

Add the white mushrooms and the porcini. Sauté until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or so.

The browned mushrooms and garlic
The browned mushrooms and garlic

Stir in the rice and let it toast, stirring for a few minutes.

Toasting the rice
Toasting the rice

Add the wine; cook, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes.

The first addition of broth
The first addition of broth

Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes. (The rice may not absorb all of broth.)

The simmering risotto
The simmering risotto

With the peas
With the peas

Stir in the peas. Remove from the heat.

Mounting with the butter and cheese
Mounting with the butter and cheese

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter (two if you’re not counting calories) and stir in with the Parmigiano Reggiano. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

The finished risotto
The finished risotto

Here is a link to the Food Network’s recipe and video. (Note that the online version of the recipe calls for 8 cups of broth, which I find to be excessive.)

Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir

Wild Mushroom Risotto


Performance anxiety. It’s a terrible affliction, especially in the kitchen. I know this first hand, having experienced it for quite some time, until yesterday, when I decided to confront this fear head on.

It started about 15 years ago when on one winter’s eve, I failed at making a risotto. I had successfully prepared so many versions of this dish so many times before. It was a staple of my culinary repertoire. But on that fateful night, I just couldn’t do it; those pesky grains of rice just refused to come together and make that creamy mass of goodness. Was it hubris? Had I been over confident? All I remember now is how my guests politely smiled at my table as they strategically picked through their portions, picking out the few edible grains of rice, and waited patiently until I announced that we were ready for the next course.

To make matters worse, shortly thereafter, these same guests invited me to their home for dinner. When I asked what’s cooking, the hostess smiled demurely and said “You’ll see,” and then disappeared for about twenty minutes into the kitchen.

When we finally sat down to dinner, she appeared at the table with an oval tureen. Her eyes focused on me as she raised its lid to reveal an aromatic butternut-squash risotto. Not only was it beautiful with deeply colored chunks of squash, glowing grains of rice, it was absolutely delicious. Perfectly cooked al dente grains of creamy rice enveloped sweet roasted cubes of butternut squash. “Delicious,” I exclaimed (albeit enviously), and my friend shot me a knowing smile and said softly, with just a hint of sarcasm, “That’s how it’s done.”

After that evening, every time I wanted to prepare risotto, I thought of my failed attempt and heard my friend’s voice saying “That’s how it’s done.” I couldn’t bring myself to make one. I knew the steps, had learned the tricks. I had read so many recipes, watched so many chefs prepare their plain or fancy versions, bought so many varieties of Italian rice from traditional Arborio to Carnaroli to Vialone Nano. But I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I just couldn’t do it.

Then, yesterday, faced with a lot of left over chicken stock from a few nights ago, an abundant supply of dried porcini, and several packages of Italian rice in the cupboard, I thought it was time. Rather than going to my cookbook collection, I dug up a recipe from television chef Ina Garten that I had seen her prepare a while ago and always wanted to make.

I bought the few ingredients from the recipe that I didn’t have on hand—some fresh crimini mushrooms, a couple of shallots. I dug out my favorite, long-neglected enameled cast iron risotto pot, and opened a bottle of wine. I took a deep breath, a few swigs of wine, and started to prep.

I soaked the dried porcini, finely chopped the shallots, diced the pancetta, heated the stock, measured out the rice, the saffron, and grated the cheese. So far, so good. Maybe another sip of wine. Had I already finished a glass?

Onto the cooking. I melted the butter, sautéed the shallots and pancetta. The aromas encouraged me to proceed. It was time for the rice. One more sip of wine. The rice went into the pot and I coated the grains with the melted butter. They started to take on a pearly glow. A sigh of relief and another sip of wine. The rice was now ready for the stock to which I had added the soaking liquid from the porcini. The first two ladles. I was sweating now. Stirring (and sipping), I watched the pot as the rice started to absorb the stock. I added the soaked porcini and the saffron. “It’s smelling good in there,” I heard from the living room. Encouraged again, I proceeded, now standing erect and confident at the pot.

I continued adding the ladlefuls of stock, stirring, watching, and occasionally tasting for the next twenty of minutes. Finally, it was done. I took the pot off the heat, stirred in the grated Parmigiano, and tasted for seasoning. Perfect! One final, triumphant, swig of wine, and I announced: “We’re ready.” Seated at the table, after one taste, my spouse looked up at me, smiled, and said: “Now, that’s how it’s done.” My risotto mojo is back.

Wild Mushroom Risotto Adapted from Ina Garten
1 -ounce dried morel mushrooms (I used dried porcini.)
1/2 pound fresh porcini or cremini mushrooms (I opted for cremini.)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1/2 cup chopped shallots (3 shallots)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (I used superfine carnaroli; I prefer its texture.)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour 2 cups boiling water over them. Set aside for 30 minutes. Scoop the mushrooms from the water with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid. You should have 2 cups; if not, add water to make 2 cups. Drain the mushrooms and rinse once more. If some of the mushrooms are large, cut into 2 or 3 pieces. Pour the mushroom liquid through a coffee filter or paper towel, discarding the gritty solids. Set the mushrooms and the liquid aside separately.

Meanwhile, remove and discard the stems of the fresh mushrooms and rub any dirt off the caps with a damp paper towel. Don’t rinse them! Slice thickly and set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock with the 2 cups of reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a simmer.

Mushrooms, onions, and pancetta
Mushrooms, onions, and pancetta

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the pancetta and shallots over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add the rehydrated and fresh mushrooms and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter.

After wine and stock
After wine and stock

Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of the chicken stock mixture to the rice plus the saffron, salt, and pepper. Stir and simmer over low heat until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock mixture, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry before adding more of the stock mixture. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 25 to 30 minutes total. When done, the risotto should be thick and creamy and not at all dry. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot in bowls with extra cheese.

After adding the cheese
After adding the cheese

Here’s a link to the original recipe on the Food Network Website.

Wine Pairing: Montepulicano d’Abruzzo, Dolcetto D’Acqui


Chicken Braised with Porcini Mushrooms


Being somewhat of an impulse shopper, I managed to amass quite a stash of dried porcini, woodsy dried mushrooms that, when rehydrated, impart loads of flavor to a dish. Although these mushrooms have a good shelf life, they won’t last forever. To their rescue, another recipe from Giuliano Hazan’s Every Night Italian: Chicken Braised with Porcini Mushrooms.

Rather than cutting up a whole chicken as called for by the recipe, I used only thighs. The chicken is browned on all sides and then braised with sautéed thinly sliced onions, chopped pancetta, re-hydrated dried porcini, tomatoes, parsley, and the mushroom soaking liquid for 40-45 minutes with the pan cover slightly askew. This makes for a thick rich sauce with deep mushroom flavor.

Here’s a link to the recipe online. Chicken Braised with Porcini Mushrooms.

Wine Pairing: Rosso di Montalcino