When I stayed with the daughter and her dancemates in Florence last summer, it was a pleasure to cook for them. Imagine lovely, lithe dancers . . . with the appetites of sled dogs. I'm not remotely exaggerating. The last night before their big performance, I made a wildly nutritious pasta for them. There was probably enough to feed a dozen normal people. The 6 of them polished it off neatly, and in the end were eating it right out of the serving bowl. One of the ingredients was some dried porcini mushrooms.
Fast-forward to the day the daughter and I left for Bologna, we took with us the fantastic Camargue sea salt we’d bought, as well as the remaining mushrooms. Our first night in Bologna, I had a dream about trying to find the mushrooms so we could make a risotto. I looked all through my bag(s), and realized that a pair of shoes was also missing. I finally found the missing shoes in an armoire, of all places (when have I ever put shoes in a closet!), and tucked in the toe of one of them was the package of mushrooms. I was so happy that we could make our risotto, and asked my daughter what we should call it. The dream let me observe her for a few seconds as she thought. Suddenly her face lit up, and she said, “We should call it Lost Shoes Risotto!"
When we got to Aix en Provence a few days later, we made it exactly as I had dreamt it. Here it is. The lemon,,oddly, is one of the critical ingredients. The one that changes the entire character of the dish from acceptable to downright jaw-dropping. Don't add it until the end (Step 3); overcooked zest tends to go bitter.
2 as an entrée, 4 as a side
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
4 cups boiling water
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces butter
2 ounces olive oil
1 cup arborio rice
4 ounces white wine
All the mushroom stock
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and diced
4 ounces goat cheese (we used a tender fresh little round from the open air market in Aix, flavored with a sprig of fresh rosemary)
Bring some water to a boil, In my dream, I hadn’t wanted to buy stock, so I decided to make an impromptu mushroom stock. Our little kitchenette (very -ette) was nicely equipped with basic equipment, but it clearly was not anticipated that anyone would be doing something so sophisticated as measuring. So I filled a coffee cup four times with boiling water, plus an extra splash. I had put the mushrooms in our one large bowl, poured in the boiling water, and set one of our two dinner plates on top to retain the heat. We poured some wine and sat down to read in front of the lovely huge window that let in a cooling evening breeze. After about a half hour, the water was looking richly brown, so we started prepping the onions and garlic. Start to finish, the mushrooms probably soaked for a good 45 minutes.
I set the bowl of mushrooms and their stock (no strainer) in the microwave to heat up preparatory to making the risotto. We melted some butter and added some olive oil and when they were hot, added the garlic. Instantly, our little place was starting to smell seriously good. I added the rice and stirred it around to toast for a few minutes, then added the wine and stirred slowly until most of it was absorbed. The stock was next While I added it a coffee cupful at a time, dodging mushrooms and stirring exquisitely slowly all the while, my daughter made us a beautiful salad and tossed it simply with olive oil and sea salt. As the risotto began to look creamier and creamier, she sliced an unbelievably fresh baguette and refilled the wine glasses.
When all the stock was in the pot, and the risotto perfectly al dente, I swirled in the lemon zest and juice, the green onions (their flavor wants to be bright, and they'll lend a bit of a good crunch) a knob of butter, the cheese, and last, the mushrooms and the bit of remaining stock. I seasoned it up, and transferred it to plates. Finally, I snipped some fresh chives over the top. We sat down together and raised a toast to the power of dreams.