Saturday, May 24, 2008

Spring Risotto

There was such a plethora of gorgeous spring produce at the market this morning, I had to change my dinner plans and come up with a recipe that would make use of some of them. What I ended up making was a wild leek and mushroom risotto with sauteed fiddleheads.

Wild leeks, or ramps as they're also called, grow in the spring, and taste like a cross between onion and strong garlic. You can eat both the bulbs and the leaves. Fiddleheads are the unfurled fronds of the ostrich fern (other fern heads are called fiddleheads, but ostrich ferns are the ones that grow in the area), and they taste somewhat like asparagus, with a flavour that is both bitter and sweet.

Risotto is one of those dishes that I use as a base for whatever flavours I currently have a hankering for, and today was no different. As I walked through the rows of crisp, juicy, delicious smelling fruits and vegetables at the market, fiddleheads, ramps, and lemons already in my basket, I knew that I wanted some mushrooms as the basis of my risotto to compliment the wild woodsiness of the fiddleheads. I came upon baskets of shiitake, portobello, and delicate oyster mushrooms, and I was set. Risotto doesn't require a seriously strict recipe, so below is what I did. You might want to do it differently, but it came out delicious.


  • 1 bunch ramps (wild leeks)
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. white wine (I used a Pinot Grigio)
  • 3 large shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and cut into a medium dice
  • 2 large Portobello mushrooms, cleaned, gills removed, and cut into a medium dice
  • 1 cluster oyster mushrooms, separated and ears sliced into lengths
  • 1 c. Arborio rice
  • 1 1/2 tetra paks of low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • A few gratings of parmesan cheese
  • two big pinches of coarse sea salt
  • Fiddleheads
  • Lemon zest

  • Clean, trim, and finely mince the ramps (white and purple parts only). Heat olive oil in a large pot; add garlic and leeks and sweat until soft and aromatic.
  • Add shiitake and portobello mushrooms. Saute until they begin to let out their liquid.
  • Add the rice and turn in the leek, garlic and mushroom mixture until coated.
  • Pour in the wine and let bubble until absorbed.
  • Begin adding warm chicken stock by the ladelful, stirring constantly until the stock is completely absorbed, and then adding more.
  • Add salt. Taste when the mixture begins to look like lava- slowly bubbling and thick. If the rice is nearly al dente, add the oyster mushrooms, and continue adding stock and stirring until cooked.
  • Beat in butter and cheese.
  • Toward the end of the risotto cooking process, melt some more butter with garlic in a wide skillet. When the butter begins to bubble, toss in your cleaned fiddleheads and saute over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. I wouldn't normally do a green vegetable for this long, but there are concerns about plant toxins with fiddleheads that cooking removes.
  • Spoon risotto into a bowl. Top with fiddleheads and a few curls of lemon zest. Serve with the wine that you added to the risotto, and enjoy.