Mondays. They are a necessity of time. In order to make it through to the rest of the week you have to get through Monday. For me Monday usually means gigantic loads of laundry ( including hand scrubbing dirty football uniforms), my weekly volunteer shift at the YMCA, and finally…trying to make dinner out of the odds and ends left in the refrigerator from the weekend. I generally keep a pretty well stocked pantry so that Monday night rush to make dinner isn’t so crazy and soul sucking.
I think I surprised everyone when I threw this dish on the table at 8:30 Monday night.I have to laugh when I see this photo. It was a treat to have Porcini mushrooms (and the Fried Chicken Mushrooms) in the fridge Monday night. They were there because I visited the Mushroom Man. You might then inquire incredulously, “Do you know the Mushroom Man?” to which I would reply, “Yes, I know the Mushroom Man” and so on. Well the story is that I do know the mushroom man. His name is Keith and he runs a shop called Fifth Element Fine Foods. I made a point to visit him at the Crossroads Market on Sunday because he posted that he had freshly foraged Porcini mushrooms and they are just something that you don’t find fresh everyday. This fall season is great for certain mushrooms like Porcini, Cauliflower, Fried Chicken Mushrooms, Yellow and White Chanterelles, Matsutake (Pine Mushrooms), and Lobster mushrooms. All of these mushrooms are shipped to Keith within 24-36 hours of being picked so that you get the freshest wild mushrooms as possible, that is unless you go pick them yourself.
Though his focus is mainly mushrooms and truffles, Keith stocks some really delicious hard to find gourmet items such as fresh wasabi, ramps, samphire, Nefiss Lezziz olives, oils and vinegars, assorted grains and lentils, and black garlic. I’ve been eyeing the black garlic for some time now and as I wasn’t sure of the flavour or texture of it I didn’t buy any until this weekend. Keith mentioned he was bringing some of the mushrooms home for a risotto and I decided that I would do the same but also try cooking with the black garlic.
I get home from my shift at the YMCA pretty late on Monday nights and since I am not one to plan ahead and have something cooking away in the oven or slow cooker, I need something fast and delicious to feed the family. Risotto is the perfect Monday night dinner for our family. I make it so much I really don’t measure anymore. For this dish I started with a generous glug of olive oil and about 4 tablespoons of finely diced onions in a hot saucepan. After they became translucent I added a cup and a bit of arborio rice and stirred so that all the grains were coated, then I added a generous splash of whatever white wine was handy and that I may have been drinking. After the alcohol was cooked off, I added 3 chopped black garlic cloves. ‘Chopped’ is sort of an approximate term here as the cloves are quite caramelized and sticky. I discovered that they disintegrated when I added the stock later and they made the dish a bit darker in colour. Each time the stock cooked down I tested a grain of rice, then added enough hot stock to cover the rice, stirred the contents then repeated until I felt the rice was ready. I added some frozen peas and a bit more water, then stirred in a generous amount of grana padano when the peas had warmed up. The mushrooms were just fried in a pan of hot butter because that is the only way to do it in my opinion.
When I called the kids to dinner both of them picked up on the scent of the black garlic right away. It’s not like the scent is offensive or anything but they could tell I had added a ‘different’ ingredient to our Monday risotto. They said it smelled a bit sweeter than usual. When I tasted it, I did think the caramelized garlic was a bit sweet but also that it had a almost fermented umami property as well (though it isn’t fermented at all).