A chance encounter of ingredients made a happy pair. Lingering in the refrigerator were two portobello mushrooms from a local grower who frequents our farmers markets, and a crisper drawer full of freshly cut garlic scapes from our little farm. What to make? My first thought was to make a summer version of the French mushroom concoction known as duxelles, named by a famous 17th century chef (Varenne) after his employer (d’Uxelles), a member of the court, no doubt. Traditionally, it’s made of finely minced mushrooms combined with finely minced shallots and garlic, cooked until moisture leaves the mushrooms. The result is a flavorful and stable ingredient for all number of uses: omelets, filled pasta and pastries, and risotto, among others.
In this version, I added garlic scapes that had been minced in a food processor to the just cooked mushrooms, and cooked them slightly to reduce the rawness of the greens. By the time I added the mixture to the simmering risotto, the whole thing merged into a satisfying blend, with deep flavors of the mushrooms offset by sparky scapes.
A note about cooking minced mushrooms: start them in a cold wide pan (in a shallow layer) and cook them over medium-high heat to release the liquid. Do not stir until the base is cooked. Adding oil or butter to the mushrooms will not allow them to brown and release liquid since the fat becomes absorbed into the spongy flesh of the mushrooms before they cook.
Risotto with Mushroom and Garlic Scape Duxelles
2 portobello mushrooms (or ½ lb white or brown mushrooms)
3 garlic scapes
Salt and pepper
Olive oil and/or butter (about 1 tbsp combined)
1 c Arborio rice
¼ c white wine
4-5 c chicken or vegetable stock
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese (or to taste)
Optional: oven-roasted garlic scapes, herbs
Make the duxelles. Mince the mushrooms in a food processor, being careful not to over-process them to mush. Place them in a large wide pan and cook over medium-high heat until the mushrooms render their liquid, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, mince the garlic scapes in the food processor. Add them to the mushrooms and turn the heat down to simmer the mixture for another 3 minutes or so. Season well with salt and pepper and set aside.
Make the risotto. Warm the stock or broth. Warm the butter or oil in a saucepan. Add the rice and stir to coat, cooking until the surface of the grains turns white. Add the wine and stir to allow it to evaporate and also instill the ingredients with flavor. Add 1/3 cup of warm liquid, adjusting the heat to so that the liquid just simmers and stir until it is absorbed. When the liquid is absorbed, add another 1/3 cup, wait until it’s absorbed, stirring occasionally, and then repeat until the rice is tender but still al dente. This process will take about 20-25 minutes. About 5 minutes or so before the risotto is fully cooked, add the duxelles and stir to combine well. When the risotto is cooked, add the grated cheese, taste for salt and adjust as needed. Garnish with herbs and/or roasted garlic scapes.