Earlier this month on a picture-perfect summer evening, my husband and I and a good friend ate outside on the terrace of Amherst’s Lord Jeffrey Inn. Our group of three looked at the interesting menu, and surprisingly all ordered the corn risotto as our main course. (If you knew what a carnivore my spouse, Ron, is, you’d be as stunned as I that he by-passed the handsome steak offering for this vegetable main course.). The waitress assured us that we wouldn’t be disappointed, and she was right.
The chef had made a delicious risotto by cooking arborio rice (the classic short, starchy grain used for this Northern Italian specialty) in simmering stock along with fresh corn kernels. As garnishes he had topped each serving with a spoonful of pickled piquillo peppers and some sautéed hen mushrooms. One bite and we were all smitten.
At home, I couldn’t get the dish out of my mind, and set out to create my own version. I sautéed chopped shallots in butter, along with corn and rice. Then for the next 20 minutes I slowly added ladlefuls of simmering broth to the pot, stirring constantly until each addition was absorbed before ladling in more.
Chopped basil and grated Parmigiano made fine seasonings for the finished dish. I omitted the pickled peppers, using a pinch of cayenne instead. Sautéed shitakes, oysters, and baby bellas (conveniently sold sliced and packaged) worked as well as the hen mushrooms. Add a salad of fresh greens tossed in lemon and olive oil and some crusty bread, and like our waitress remarked, “You won’t be disappointed!”
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Corn Risotto with Basil and Sautéed Mushrooms
5 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/ 4 cup chopped shallots
1 generous cup fresh corn kernels (2 to 3 ears)
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
6 tbsp Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
1 to 2 generous pinches cayenne pepper
5 tsp finely chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp olive oil
4 oz ounces fresh mushrooms, such as shiitakes, oyster, and baby bellas, sliced (see note)
3/4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp kosher salt plus more if needed
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the stock in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and keep at a gentle simmer.
2. In a large, heavy saucepan set over medium heat, heat the butter until hot. Add the shallots and corn, and sauté, stirring, until shallots are softened and translucent, but corn kernels are still firm, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat well for 1 minute.
3. With a ladle add 1/2 cup of the simmering stock to the rice and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until all the liquid has been absorbed, 2 minutes or so. Continue adding stock in 1/2 cup amounts, cooking and stirring, until each addition has been absorbed before adding the next. When done, the rice should be creamy but not runny, tender but still somewhat firm. This process should take about 20 minutes. (You may have some stock left over.) Stir in cheese and season with salt and cayenne pepper. Cover the pan and set aside.
4. For the mushrooms, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they are softened and lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring 1 to 2 minutes more. Season the mushrooms with 1/4 tsp salt and several grinds of pepper.
5. To serve, stir the chopped basil into the risotto. Then mound the risotto in 4 shallow bowls and garnish each serving with some of the sautéed mushrooms. Serves 4.
Note: Some groceries sell packages of mixed sliced mushrooms including shiitakes, baby bellas, and oysters. This is convenient way to buy them. If unavailable, use 2 to 3 ounces shiitakes (stems removed and mushrooms sliced) and 2 ounces baby bellas (sliced through the stems).
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2015