It's been a long wait: Risotto with Porcini, Mozzarella and Preserved Lemon

Preserved Lemons in Spring Sunshine
Three weeks is a long time to wait for food.  Of course I've had other things to fill my plate with along the way, but for weeks now, I've been alternately admiring and shaking a jar of preserved lemons sitting on my countertop.  Seems everyone is making these lemons - they are in nearly every food blog.  Since I found and excellent recipe and instructions from Alana at Eating from the Ground up, I'll direct you there to make your own.  Just keep in mind as you read this recipe, though, that if you didn't get caught up in the fun before I did (you may have a jar sitting waiting for this recipe at your house too - that would be perfect!), then you will need to wait three weeks for your own lemons, or get yourself off to a grocery store that sells them.  And please, please use organic lemons.  You'll be eating the peel.  You don't want toxins and bug killer in there.

That isn't the only thing that inspired this recipe though:

1)  I have jars full of dried mushrooms that I picked during last year's bountiful fall:  Porcini (Herkkutatti), Black Trumpet (Mustatorvisieni) and Yellow Foot (Suppilovahvero) - not to mention the ones sitting in my freezer, filling up 1.5 drawers in there.  It's a good problem to have, it really is, but...summer is coming.  Which means more mushrooms and berries, and other good stuff from the Finnish woods around here, and I know that at the first sign of a ripe, edible anything out there, I'll be out of the house with basket in hand, collecting like a pilgrim for the long, cold winter ahead.  This long cold winter is ending - Finally!  Time to use up some of those beautiful porcini.

Porcini, Yellow Foot, Black Trumpet Mushrooms
2)  Homemade Bouillon!  Expect a theme for a while on this.  I can't get over how good this stuff is.  If you haven't tried it yet, please do yourself a favor and go make some.  I have the ingredients for another batch in my fridge, and will get it in the freezer as soon as possible.  Seriously - it is so easy to do, and you can't believe the extra flavor it adds to your meal.

3)  Fresh Mozzarella.  Enough said.  Even more to smile about if it had been Bufala Mozzarella, but this stuff worked just fine

4)  A cupboard full of rice - brown rice, jasmine rice, red rice, wild rice, arborio rice... um...make that two bags of arborio rice.

Risotto is perfect for a sunny winter day.  I hope you'll enjoy it.  The recipe doubles easily, especially since I halved it so that there wouldn't be leftovers and I'd have an excuse to make something else tomorrow...  The lemon flavor is quite prominent in here - it sings way out in front on a bright note so that the mushroom flavor sits deeply in the background and supports the lightness of the lemon.  If you don't like a strong lemon flavor, try using half or two-thirds the suggested amount of preserved lemon.  If you don't have preserved lemon, leave it out (I don't suggest using fresh lemon - but I'll leave that up to you).

Risotto with Porcini, Mozzarella and Preserved Lemon

Risotto with Porcini, Mozzarella and Preserved Lemon

1.  Measure out 1/4 cup of dried porcini mushrooms/herkkutatti into a heat-proof bowl and cover with bowling water to just submerge them.  Set aside.

2.  Prepare the Homemade Bouillon from my previous post, or use 4 cups of vegetable broth from your preferred source.  Bring it to a simmer in a separate pot and allow to continue to simmer while you cook the rest of the risotto.

3.  Putting it all together:
     1 shallot, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
     1 garlic clove, minced or diced very small.
     2 tablespoons olive oil
     1/4 preserved lemon, fruit scraped away so just  the peel remains, diced small

Heat the olive oil in a (6 quart/6 liter) pot over medium heat.  Add the shallot, garlic and lemon and stir until the shallot and garlic are tender and translucent; 2-3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon or your fingers, take the mushrooms out of the water (save the liquid) and add them to the pot with the shallot mixture.  Stir and cook for 1 minute.

     1 cup of arborio rice

and stir constantly for 2 minutes until the rice is lightly toasted.  Add the reserved mushroom liquid all at once, bring to a simmer and cook gently over medium heat (the mixture should bubble slightly and constantly.  When the rice has absorbed nearly all of the liquid, add another cup of liquid.  Allow the rice to absorb most of the liquid once again, stirring frequently.   Repeat 2 more times, until you have 1 cup of liquid remaining.  The mixture should begin to look quite creamy and thick.  Add the remaining broth, 1/2 cup at a time.  Taste the rice - it should be al dente, that is, feel slightly firm to your teeth when you bite it.  This is perfect.  Remove it from the heat and add:

     1 cup mozzarella, chopped into cubes.

Stir thoroughly so that the mozzarella melts and incorporates into the risotto.

Serves 2 for a main course or 4 as a side dish.

We followed this with lemon tart that was in the freezer left over from this adventure.  The perfect bright flavor at the end of a wonderfully satisfying meal.   Yes, the three week wait for those preserved lemons was more than worth it.

Summer is coming!

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