This past Saturday, Mark and I made the trek out to Santa Monica to have brunch with Jessica and Lauren down on Third Street Promenade. The service was bad but the crepes stuffed with ham, eggs, and emmenthal cheese were a delight. Afterward, we swung through the farmers' market so I could do a little research for a post that I'm doing for Apartment Therapy. I found one stand in particular to be quite intriguing - one that specialized in wild mushrooms.
Growing up, mushrooms were one of the many vegetables that I refused to eat, although my disgust was based on the leathery, grey bits found in Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup which was often the base for whatever casserole was being served for dinner. (Did that sound bitchy?) Even non-processed mushrooms were suspect, specifically the creepy gills on the underside of the cap. To be honest, they still kind of give me the willies. But it's something that I'm working through. That's why I was sort of excited to see this mushroom stand, in particular the big box of Chanterelles. Just the name alone is enough to reconsider the boycot. "Chanterelle." It's just so glamorous and elegant sounding. And no gills.
"What do chanterelles taste like?" I asked the tattooed mushroom seller. He explained that they have a delicate flavor with hints of apricot. I loved the sound of that. There was even a little card next to the box of chanterelles with a recipe - Chanterelle and corn risotto. I loved that sound of that even more. The resulting dish is more of a combination of the one on the card and a recipe I found in Sunday Suppers at Lucque. That recipe was actually for a ricotta gnocchi with chanterelle, corn and sage brown butter sauce, but I sort of repurposed it. I thought it worked well.
Extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups aborio rice
1/2 pound Chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned, 2/3 of the mushrooms finely chopped, the remaining 1/3 coarsley chopped
2 large ears of corn, kernals cut from the cobs
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh sage, thinly sliced
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Sea scallops, 4 per person
First make the risotto. In a medium pot, combine the chicken stock with half of the finely chopped mushrooms and 1/2 tablespoon of the thyme, and bring to a gentle simmer.
Heat a large pot over medium high heat for a minute or so. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil and when it gets hot, add the chopped onion, 1/2 teaspoon of thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook the onions for a couple minutes until they soften and then add half the corn, and the rest of the finely chopped mushrooms.
Saute for about 4 more minutes then add the rice. Stir to coat and saute for about 2 more mintues, until the rice becomes slightly translucent. Add the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Ladle in 1 cup of the simmering stock and stir until it has been absorbed by the rice. Continue adding ladlefuls of stock and stirring as the rice cooks and absorbs and gets soft. The process should probably take about 30 minutes. I find that you don't have to stand by the pot and stir constantly. Just quite a bit, if that makes sense. When it looks like you have just a few ladlefuls of stock left, taste the risotto for seasoning and texture. The consistency should be soft with just a hint of bite. You may not need all of the stock. When the risotto is done, cover and turn off the heat while we move on to the next step.
Heat a large saute pan over high heat for two minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat for 1 minute until the oil ripples. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and when it foams, add the remaining coarsley chopped mushrooms, 1/2 tablespoon of thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a healthy pinch of pepper.
Saute the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they're tender and a little crispy. But don't be attempted to stir them TOO much in the beginning. Let them sear a little, before stirring. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to a bowl.
Return the pan to the stove and heat over high for 1 minute. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter to the pan and cook for a minute or two, until the butter starts to brown. Add the sage, let it sizzle, and then add the corn, shallots, the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.
Saute quickly, stirring the corn in the hot butter for about 2 minutes, until the corn is just tender. Add the corn to the bowl with the sauteed mushrooms.
Return the pan to the stove and heat over high heat for a minute or so. Pat the scallops dry with a papper towel and season with salt and pepper. Add a little olive oil to the pan and when it ripples, gently place the scallops in the pan and sear for about 1 minute per side, turning once.
I placed mine around the edges so they would all cook evenly. The middle of the pan is hotter than the edges.
To serve, spoon a mound of risotto into each bowl, spoon over some of the sauted mushroom, sage brown butter corn mixture, and top with the seared scallops.
This dish is a great sort of transition from end of summer into the fall. The corn is sweet, the mushrooms also sweet yet earthy. You could just make the risotto and skip the sauteing portion, but I don't recommend it. It really gives the dish an amazing combination of textures. The risotto itself gets infused with the flavors of the mushrooms and corn but the sauteed mushrooms and corn really preserve their textures - the corn just pops in your mouth and the mushrooms are meaty and a little crispy around the edges. The sage brown butter and the tender, seared scallops give the dish an amazing finish.
The risotto would be great to serve for a little dinner party, especially if any guests are vegetarian. The risotto can be made in advance (but not too far) and the sauteeing section takes no time and can be done at the last minute. The resulting dish is so elegant, but in a very casual way. I mean, what could be better than a big shallow bowl of steaming rice, corn, and mushrooms and a glass of wine?