Risotto is one of the classic dishes often used among food snobs to measure the caliber of a chef. According to them, anything less than a perfect risotto equals a less than stellar chef.
Fussy risotto purists have strict criteria for judging a proper risotto: Has the correct rice been used? (Experts use carnaroli; arborio is decidedly for amateurs). Has it been cooked to a perfect al dente? (It should be tender but not soft; have a bite but not be crunchy.) Has it been stirred slowly enough to release the starches, creating a creamy broth without a drop of actual cream? (Adding cream is considered blasphemous.) Is it the right consistency? (Moist but not runny). Was it salted at the right time? (Always at the end, never as you go.)
The risotto rules can make this otherwise simple dish seem intimidating to the point of forget about it. Although it is true that making a proper risotto takes time, patience, and a lot of tasting as you go, it is not difficult and is actually quite forgiving. This recipe featuring hearty mushrooms and savory parmesan proves that you don’t have to be a master chef to make a fabulous risotto. Just be sure to hide the arborio rice container from your fussy friends because you likely won’t find carnaroli, but don’t worry: No one will taste the difference.