During the long cold months, when it seems like winter may never end, I fill my kitchen with hearty dishes that warm me to the core. This venison risotto does just that. It’s a recipe that I adapted from my Italian grandfather that is full of flavor and comforting all at once.
Arborio rice is traditionally used for risotto, but, if it isn’t available, look for a medium-grain rice at your grocery store. Similarly, if dried porcinis are hard to come by, look for any dried mushroom—the intense flavor permeates the rice better than fresh mushrooms, as does the leftover mushroom broth that forms when you rehydrate the mushrooms.
You’ll want to use venison tenderloin or backstrap, or any similarly lean cut of meat like beef chuck. The meat should be cut into very small cubes so that it blends into the rice and each bite is a uniform texture with a balance of all of the flavors.
The key to a successful risotto is to slowly add the liquid in batches so that the rice fully absorbs one ladle of stock before you add any more. Stirring it constantly as you do so will help the starch release from the rice and give it that creamy texture for which risotto is known.
Give this recipe a try during these cold, snowy days and see how it warms you to the core!
1. Rinse rice well and set aside.
2. Put dried mushrooms in a small saucepan, cover with water and simmer over low heat for five minutes or until the water is dark brown and reduced by half. Turn off the heat and cool.
3. Put the chicken broth in a saucepan over low heat and add the bay leaf and cloves. Bring to a simmer and turn off the heat.
4. In a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the onions and thyme for two minutes. Sprinkle with salt to help release the moisture.
5. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another minute.
6. Add the diced venison and cook for another two minutes.
7. Add wine and cook for another minute.
8. Stir in tomato paste and then add rinsed rice making sure to let the rice get thoroughly coated and very hot.
9. With a ladle, begin adding the warm chicken broth a little at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the broth each time before adding more.
10. Test the rice as you cook. It should be slightly resistant to your tooth. Remember, it will continue to cook after you turn off the heat, and you don’t want mushy rice.
11. Drain mushrooms and chop coarsely. Add to rice along with mushroom water.
12. Turn off the heat and add a ½ cup of the grated cheese and fresh ground pepper.
13. Serve in shallow bowls with extra grated cheese on top.