Kritharaki Me Manitaria (Mushroom Risotto)

Recently I have picked up a love for cooking as well as foreign cuisine, I thought “Hey let’s put these things together and see what you can do”, from there my journey to becoming the sous’ chef of the house began. I am a firm believer that everything deserves a chance to show you its true potential, in this case, its flavor. I have never been a huge fan of mushrooms; however, I have recently begun trying to open myself up to the world of fungi. When I came across this dish with a name way too difficult for me to even begin to try and pronounce, I knew it was the perfect dish for me to try and recreate.

Originally when I found this recipe I didn’t think that it would be too hard to recreate, the name was definitely not going to scare me off. I started chopping, slicing and grating and I slowly began to feel overwhelmed. This recipe listed in the ingredient list that the vegetables and other items to be already chopped, being the intelligent person I am, I didn’t do that. So I cut the onion and tossed it in to my big ole skillet and let them caramelize while I got the mushrooms prepared. In the many years of my life, 18.28 years to be exact, I have never seen so many mushrooms as I had at that moment. It felt like I had been cutting those little suckers for a solid eternity and then my onions were starting to burn, not caramelize like they were supposed to be. My advice would be to cut all the ingredients before you begin cooking because this recipe goes fast, as fast as Usain Bolt.

After smelling the lovely juices of my creation cooking, I finally got to enjoy its deliciousness. I was thinking, as I am sure many of you are, any recipe that includes wine as a flavoring agent must be good. This is wrong but right on so many levels, the wine gave this recipe a subtle fruit flavor that made everyone in my family’s taste buds dance with multitude of joy.

Overall, I feel like this recipe was a success. I would say that a novice chef would be able to pull this off while barely breaking a sweat and it will still taste just as amazing. Taste wise I would give this recipe an 8.5/10 stars. This is because although the wine does give the recipe a unique spin on it and delicious at that, I was disappointed at the lack of any cinnamon sticking through since I had let a stick of cinnamon simmer in all of the liquids for about 20 minutes. As well, I did not feel like the mushrooms held any flavor and they felt almost as if they had just been there for nutritional reasons. My family however, let me know that they greatly enjoyed this meal and that they would rate it 10/10 and then they asked me to make them more.

Below I have attached a copy of the recipe. You can find this recipe and more here

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SERVINGS: 8 to 10

1 onion, very finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 c grated tomato (grated on the large holes of a box grater)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 lb white button mushrooms, stemmed and cleaned, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 c red wine
2 c vegetable stock or water
1-lb package Loi Kritharaki Orzo Pasta (or other whole-grain pasta)
Freshly grated pecorino cheese, for garnish
Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

1. COOK the onion until golden and caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes, in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, sprinkling it lightly with salt as it cooks. Add the tomato and garlic and continue to cook until well combined.
2. ADD the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are nicely browned, about 10 minutes. The liquid they release as they cook will be used later to coat the pasta. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, and add the cinnamon stick and bay leaf.
3. POUR in the wine and add 2 cups of stock. Continue to cook over medium heat until the liquid is reduced by one-third. There should be enough liquid in the skillet to comfortably hold all the orzo, about 1 cup. If not, add a little extra water or stock as needed.
4. PREHEAT a small sauté pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the orzo and cook, stirring, until it turns golden brown and develops a nutty aroma, less than 5 minutes.
5. ADD the orzo to the skillet with the mushroom mixture and allow it to cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, about 5 to 10 minutes. If the orzo has absorbed all of the liquid but isn’t quite done, add another ¼ or ½ cup of stock to the skillet. Taste the sauce, and add salt and pepper as needed.
6. REMOVE the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. To serve, ladle the pasta into large bowls, sprinkle with pecorino and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

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