Friday, January 25, 2013

Italian Sausage and Wild Mushroom Risotto

Last year's post: Lemon Chicken and Fennel Pot Pies

I struggled with this post.  Not because the risotto isn't delicious - it definitely is - but because it isn't the prettiest dish I've ever photographed.  Take it as testament to the wonderful taste that I decided to post it anyway.  I published a spring risotto recipe last spring that contained asparagus, peas, pesto and turkey.  (If you're interested you can see the recipe here .)  This risotto is entirely different and definitely a winter dish with its warm and earthy flavors of Italian sausage and wild mushrooms - perfect for a cold and blustery day.  It reheats beautifully so you can make it in advance if you don't want to make it when you get home after a long day.

Risotto (basically a creamy rice dish) isn't at all hard to make, it just requires a fair amount of stirring while you slowly add the hot chicken stock to the rice.  I actually find all that stirring kind of soothing, but then I also like to chop things by hand.  (Anything other than sitting in an office staring at a computer seems sort of refreshing to me.) 

I used half hot and half sweet Italian sausage, but you could use all hot or all sweet depending on how spicy you like your food.  Allowing the sausage to brown and develope a little crust greatly adds to the flavor.

I also used half shiitake and half cremini mushrooms, but you could use other mushrooms although button (white) mushrooms won't give you the same deep earthy flavor.  Portobello mushrooms would be a better substitute.

Although I usually make a point of saying that you can change and substitute ingredients however you want, don't substitute a different kind of rice in this recipe.  Arborio rice has a higher starch content than most rices, which creates the creamy sauce that's the hallmark of risotto when you stir it with hot broth.

It was my own idea to add spinach to the risotto, both for color and because I like to add nutrients to a dish whenever possible.  I was tempted to add some roasted red bell peppers for additional color, but I was concerned they might mask the flavor of the Madeira wine.  Basically I just need to accept the fact that this is a fabulous dish that happens to be primarily brownish, and move on with life.  Try it, and I promise you won't be disappointed!

click here for a printable recipe

Italian Sausage and Mushroom Risotto
serves 4

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pound Italian turkey sausage (sweet, hot, or a mix), removed from casings
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed, sliced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, cleaned and stems trimmed, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 ½ cups Madeira, divided
6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
3 cups fresh chopped spinach
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and break up with edge of a wooden spoon.  Allow to brown without stirring for a few minutes, then stir and break up more (if necessary) and allow to brown again.  Add the mushrooms, thyme, and oregano and cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes.  Add ½ cup of the Madeira and scrape to deglaze the pan, about 1 minute.  Set aside.

Heat chicken stock in a large saucepan until steaming, then keep warm over low heat.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the rice; stir 2 minutes.  Add the remaining  1 cup Madeira.  Cook, stirring constantly until the Madeira has been absorbed, about 2 minutes.  Ladle in a little hot stock, just enough to barely cover the rice; simmer until almost absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes.  Continue to cook until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding more stock by ladlefuls, stirring often and allowing most stock to be absorbed before adding more, until rice is tender but still firm to the bite, about 20-25 minutes.  Stir in the spinach and allow to wilt for a minute or two.

Stir in the sausage mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve, sprinkled with cheese.

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