Updated: Aug 10, 2022
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Risotto is one of those dishes that people prefer to order in a restaurant instead of making it themselves. Why is that? The only reason I can think of is that it sounds fancy, which must mean it CAN'T be easy to make, right? The truth is that it's actually super easy and anyone can make it.
Why Is Risotto One of My Go-To Dishes?
I love risotto because it can be adapted to suit anyone's taste buds. You can make it as plain as you want or dress it up with anything you like! Veggies like pumpkin or kale can turn it into a seasonal dish. If you want to add some protein, you can introduce anything from seafood to beef. I promise I'll share many different kinds of risotto with you in the future if you're interested in more suggestions on how to play with it.
Buckwheat and Mushrooms
I think every Ukrainian will agree with me that buckwheat and mushrooms is truly an iconic food combination for most Eastern Europeans. It's pretty much the heart of our cuisine. We just love that flavor combo! It tastes like home to me. If you're in the mood for a soup with these flavors, check out my buckwheat soup with wild mushrooms.
An Eastern European Twist on Risotto
Risotto is traditionally made with Arborio rice. If you'd like to make a dish with this rice, check out my seafood paella. But today we're making something special for me. It's something the newer generations of Ukrainians have come up with. They took the idea of traditional risotto and added buckwheat to the dish instead of using the typical Arborio rice. Smart, right?
This new dish is called "grechotto." It's based on the Ukrainian word for buckwheat, which is "grechka." Even though it's a newer dish, the ingredients are so typical for Eastern Europeans that future generations will assume this dish is really a traditional Ukrainian national dish.
Buckwheat is often called "kasha" in the US, which translates to the Ukrainian equivalent of porridge. I grew up eating different kinds of porridge such oat, barley, cream of wheat, millet, pea, rice, and sweet pumpkin porridge. But buckwheat porridge is probably the favorite for most people. Kasha is to us as bulgur to the Middle East or rice to China - a staple carbohydrate food used in numerous dishes.
Fun fact: Buckwheat is not technically a grain but is actually the seeds of an herb, a relative a rhubarb. The seed, or groats, form a dietary staple in northern climates, especially in Siberian Russian and Brittany. Buckwheat is also an important component of Jewish cuisine.
What's So Great About Buckwheat?
Buckwheat is high in lysine and calcium as well as vitamin E and the entire gamut of vitamin B complex. It is especially noted for its high nitriloside (B17) content (a vitamin that plays an important role in the body's defense against cancer).
Buying Buckwheat Groats
My family loves the buckwheat that's sold in Russian stores because it comes pre-toasted and has a brown, almost golden, color. It has a very strong nutty smell and is delicious, even if cooked plain like a pilaf. If the buckwheat you buy isn't toasted, you can toast it on a dry skillet over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, or until it's golden brown in color. Then remove it from the heat and proceed with the recipe.
This time of year, so many people in my home country go to the forest to pick mushrooms and preserve them for the long winter by drying, fermenting, pickling, or just simply freezing.
This is the time of year when I miss my dad the most because I remember that's what we did in the fall: spend whole day together in the woods looking for delicious treasures. At this time of year, brings me back warm memories of my childhood, and I want to have more mushrooms in my diet to capture those feelings.
In South Carolina, mushroom season begins in early June and carries on until Christmas. Pretty cool. My husband has never been a mushroom eater, but I think he is definitely making progress. I'm very proud of him because the summer of 2020 is the first time, he went chanterelle picking with us!
I love to go with my boys as often as I can to find these beautiful yellow mushrooms. They're called "lisichki" in Ukrainian. In the region where I'm from, they were considered a big delicacy because they weren't commonly found. They are so delicate in their flavor profile and blend so well with many ingredients that they're so easy to cook with. I like to compare chanterelles to chicken meat because they're so versatile but will never overpower your dish.
Because the flavor of chanterelles is so delicate and soft compared to some other mushrooms, I add some more flavor to the picture by adding dry shitake mushrooms. I also include the water I use to hydrate the shitake mushrooms as part of my liquid in the risotto.
How Do I Clean Wild Mushrooms?
The best way to clean wild mushrooms is to take a paring knife and paper towel or kitchen towel and to gently scrape the dirt off. You don't want to wash them with water because water is the enemy for fungi. They're like a sponge and will absorb the liquid in no time.
The soil where chanterelles grow are pretty sandy, so please, be patient. Some relaxing music can help.
What Kind of Stock Should I Use?
Besides using the water from soaking mushrooms, I also used chicken stock. If you want to make a vegetarian version, vegetable stock can easily be used. I've done it many times.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Autor: Inna of innichkachef.com
Serves: 4 portions as a meal or 6 as a starter
1 cup buckwheat groats, washed
3 cups fresh chanterelles, roughly chopped
6 dry shitake caps, hydrated and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped (reserve a little bit for garnish)
⅔ cup freshly shredded parmesan
2-3 tablespoons butter
2-3 tablespoons olive oil (plus one tablespoon for the garnish)
1 teaspoon Celtic salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup white wine
1½ - 2 cups chicken stock (homemade is what I prefer)
Hydrate the dry shitake mushrooms by putting them in a bowl and adding enough water to cover the mushrooms.
Clean the fresh chanterelles (see note above on how to do it).
In a pan on medium-low heat, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter. Let it melt, then add chopped onion, salt, and freshly ground black pepper and let it cook for a few minutes until the onion looks translucent. Try to avoid browning the onion. Add the chopped garlic, then stir everything together and cook for another minute or so.
Add the chopped shitake mushrooms, reserving the soaking water. Then add the chanterelles and stir everything together. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the buckwheat groats and let it cook for another minute.
Add the wine and increase heat to medium-high.
Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until all liquid (alcohol) evaporates.
Add the reserved mushroom soaking water and one ladleful of stock. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it, stir once in a while, and add stock as needed.
Near the end of the 15 minutes, add one more tablespoon of butter and the shredded cheese, then stir everything together.
Add chopped parsley, cover again, and turn off the heat. Let sit for a few minutes. This step is important because it allows the risotto to achieve the perfect creamy consistency and flavor.