Chicken of the woods mushroom risotto

The other day, my partner Brock came home with a chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) mushroom he found walking in the neighborhood.

chicken of the woods mushroom

Fun fact: chicken of the woods is one of the easiest/safest starter mushrooms for amateur foragers. This is the second one we’ve found and brought home, after stumbling upon a monster (4+ lbs trimmed!) last fall.

After confirming via Instagram that yes, this was edible and no, we weren’t going to murder ourselves eating it (thank you, Chef Jeremy) I got to work on a delicious chicken of the woods mushroom risotto. (Adapted from Serious Eats mushroom risotto, which, if you haven’t tried the pressure cooker version of, you’re missing out on something magical.)

Ingredients:

  • About 6 c chicken stock (or veggie stock. or mostly stock and some water if that’s what you’ve got)
  • 4 T butter
  • 4 T olive oil
  • About 1 pound chicken of the woods mushrooms (after cleaning, trimming), cut into small bite-size pieces
  • Sprig of thyme
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 c dry white wine
  • 2 t soy sauce (+/- to taste)
  • 1.5 c arborio or other risotto-friendly rice
  • 1 T yellow miso
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano to taste
  • Salt & pepper

Method:

Put your stock (or stock + water) into a pot and place it on the burner behind the one you’ll be risotto-ing in. (Or next to, but I find behind to me most convenient.) You just want to keep this warm throughout cooking, so heat it to just a simmer then stabilize it on low.

Melt 3T each of the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Toss in your mushrooms with the thyme sprig, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook until they have soaked up much of the liquid, are soft and beginning to brown a bit. Add the rest of the butter and oil, along with the onion, and continue to cook and stir until it becomes translucent. You’re already using a fair amount of fat here, so if your pan starts to get some too-brown bits on the bottom, pour in a bit of your wine to deglaze. Once the onion is soft, add the garlic and cook and stir until it’s aromatic and no longer raw. Remove the thyme, stir in your soy sauce, and taste your mushroom mixture. Not there yet? Play with the salt, pepper, and soy until it’s delicious. Good? Good. Take it out of the pan and keep it on a plate or in a bowl while you make the rice.

Deglaze your pan with a bit of wine, then add the rice and toast it just a bit. Add the miso and stir that into the rice as best you can as it toasts. When that’s fairly mixed in, drop your heat to medium/medium-low and add the rest of your white wine. Stir until it’s nearly all soaked into the rice. Then, add a ladle (or re-use your measuring cup and shoot for about 3/4 c) of the warmed broth. Stir until it’s nearly all soaked into the rice. Add another ladle of broth. Stir until it’s nearly all soaked into the rice. Notice a pattern emerging? You’re going to follow this process – add broth, stir until soaked in, repeat – until your risotto is done.

How do you know when your risotto is done?

By taste and texture. You want the raw bite to be completely (or almost completely) gone, leaving you with soft, creamy, chewy rice that almost feels like it’s in a broth even though you’ve cooked all of that into the little grains of yumminess. You can start tasting when:

  • You’ve gone through at least 4 cups of your broth. When I made this, I used about 6 cups of liquid total. (Honestly, started with a quart of broth and had to switch to water at the end. It was totally fine.)
  • You notice the texture or the rice changing. Your goal is a creamy consistency, almost like grits or polenta but with larger grains.

When the risotto is the proper doneness for your taste, add mushroom mixture back in, along with your Parmigiano Reggiano. Stir everything together and taste your risotto. Add salt, pepper, and/or more Parmigiano Reggiano to taste. A little lemon zest might be nice, too.

Serve and enjoy. 🙂

Side story:

Some things I love about the internet and social media. Others I hate. One thing I love is that – surprise! – there still is community out there for people who share passions. Opportunities for strangers to connect positively and make each other’s lives better.

Here’s the post I made earlier this week asking for help identifying our chicken of the woods.

And here’s the post from last year, asking for help with our first find. It was through this post that an old friend made a connection to Chef Jeremy Umansky, a licensed wild mushroom hunter and kick-ass chef that’s killing it with what may be the best Jewish deli in the country, back in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. After connecting with Jeremy, I went down a crazy food rabbit hole on Insta, finding like-minded chefs, foragers, hunters, farmers, and foodies, and quickly circled back to some of my own connections in Chicago.

Things like this remind me that it actually is a pretty small world, and one filled with overall good humans. At least that’s how I feel.

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