baked three mushroom rice
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Baked rice casserole with mushrooms. Or is it pilaf? Or baked risotto? Either way, you get a veggie dish of fluffy rice with three kinds of mushrooms, minimum effort and no ladling the stock or stirring for hours.
As I am neither Italian nor Middle Eastern, I am not an expert on either risotto or pilaf but I can clearly see similarities. Both techniques (as that’s what they are, as well as the names of the dishes) cook dry rice initially in fat, in company of some aromatics, to follow with hot liquid. I am not a scientist either (what’s the point of me?) so I have no idea what reactions such sudden scorching induces in the grains of rice but as a cook (ah! finally) I know it produces satisfactory texture.
The risotto of course is the troublesome one: ladling and stirring, stirring and ladling and absorbing. Pilaf is lower maintenance: cover, boil, don’t peek. The slightly contentious next step is whether you are allowed to let it boil etc. in the oven or whether it has to stay on the hob. Some very decisive authorities forbid oven, but I have it on good authority of Persian Mama (and Gordon Ramsay) that it’s perfectly permissible. It’s just easier to avoid the temptation of peeking.
The rice baked in the oven reminds me of my grandma who baked rice under the blankets. I am completely serious: she would boil it for a while, then pack it up in an old newspaper and tuck it in under the duvet in her bed. It always made me scoff and snicker, silly Grandma and her rice superstitions, but was it so stupid? Once rice absorbs most of the liquid, it just needs to sit somewhere warm to steam through to perfection. Minimum heat on the hob, oven or indeed a down filled duvet performs that role equally well.
My rice is a veggie version, with three kinds of mushrooms, just for diversity; and because there aren’t many things that can’t be improved with dried porcini flavour. But chicken might happily go in the dish, thus making the Persian morgh polow. I know – it’s rice with things in purists’ opinion, unless you’re rightfully Iranian, but if we’re not allowed to borrow or steal from other cultures, it will make for a very boring fare – and life.
baked three mushroom riceServings: 2Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 20g (1/3 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 cube of vegetable stock
- 100g (½ cup) button mushrooms
- 100g (½ cup) shiitake mushrooms
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 200g (1 cup) long grain rice
- 50ml (3 tbsp.) dry vermouth
- 50g (½ cup) frozen peas, thawed
- 4-5 sprigs of thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- freshly ground pepper
- a small bunch of flat parsley
- 30g (½ cup) grated Parmesan
1. Soak the dried porcini mushrooms with boiling water for at least 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid. Top it up with hot water, if necessary, to the amount of 450ml (2 cups minus 3 tbsp.) and dissolve the stock cube in the liquid.
2. Halve the larger button mushrooms and chop the shiitakes into similar sized chunks.
3. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
4. Heat the oil in a large, ovenproof pan over high heat. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes; don’t worry if they catch to the bottom of the pan a little. Add the onions and cook for another 3 minutes until it turns translucent. The onion juices should release the burnt bits a little.
5. Add the butter, garlic and rice and cook, stirring for 3 minutes, reduce the heat a little if necessary. Pour in the vermouth followed by the mushroom stock.
6. Add the peas, thyme (tied by some kitchen string to extract it easily later), salt, cinnamon and at least 5 turns of the black pepper mill. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven.
7. Bake for 25 minutes without lifting the lid. Remove the pan from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes, still without peeking inside.
8. After 10 minutes lift the lid, stir in the parsley and the Parmesan, and serve.