wild mushroom jujube risotto
what does it take for christine han to put on pants on a saturday morning and interact with the outside world? the need to run to the corner store to buy more butter. i spent the entire day indoors (minus the butter run) and felt very little need to socialize (minus facetiming with hudson to see how potty training was progressing). it was what i’d like to call my perfect saturday. a day to recharge, cook, and regain a sense for myself.
this is the first time i’ve ever lived in a place where i can’t speak the primary language. to say that it’s disorienting to live somewhere where you’re unable to communicate with a lot of people you come in contact with is an understatement. i’m surviving by abbreviating my sentences, using hand gestures, whipping out google translate and having the person on the other end wait while i try to figure out how to say what i need to say. it’s so restraining. there’s so many jokes and things i’ve wanted to say and ask, but the delivery has been so bad that i’d rather not grapple and just not say anything at all sometimes. i’m taking lessons now, and i can catch myself easily identifying objects naturally in french which is an assuring sign i guess?! *shrugs*
other things. is that my curiosity of this city has completely consumed me. an entire day can go by where i’m walking around and learning about new streets and neighborhoods and it’s become dark and waaaay past my bedtime. when most of what my mind is how to inhale in a city that seems to have no end, there’s little room to reflect about some pretty important things like my faith or my relationship with family and friends with any sort of depth. spending all day at home and cooking today to me was kind of like course-correcting and meditating. there was little distraction trying to get to know the unfamiliar and there was a sense of kinship with the things i carried with me from back home, be it the cookbooks or little bowls and plates i handmade in brooklyn or my beloved dutch oven.
i had a version of this wild mushroom risotto at one of my favorite restaurants in barcelona, la ramona. it was the very first thing my mom, sister, baby hudson, baby taylor and i ate after touching down. it was so comforting; there was a hint of sweetness, a tinge of flavors from home from the soy sauce, and the mushrooms were so so hearty. hudson gobbled it up and it made me so happy to see him eat well as i always have at this restaurant.
as i stood over stove while slowly stirring in the stock while the rice softened, i thought a lot about my family and hudson and how much i miss being with them. i’m lucky to be able to see them as often as i do given that i’ve lived thousands of miles from home for the past few years and they’ve been nice enough to come out and visit me wherever i end up. buuuttt the feelings of missing being home home and being able to be my absolute self self were stronger today than any typical day.
wild mushroom jujube risotto
8 cups water
8 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2 medium yellow onion cut in half
1/2 cup dried jujube dates pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons mirin rice wine
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced shallot
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups fresh wild mushrooms roughly chopped (i used chantarelle and shiitake)
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan reggiano
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
herbs for garnish
1/4 cup chopped chives
in a large boiling pot, add water, mushrooms, and onions, and jujubes. bring up to a rolling boil on high heat for 5 minutes. cover and bring down to a medium simmer for 30 minutes until broth has reduced down by 1/4 (6 cups). taste your stock and add more jujubes or soy sauce if you prefer sweeter or saltier broth. keep in mind that the stock will be your main source for salt (minus the parmesan) so season to your liking.
keep on low heat while prepping and cooking the risotto.
heat up medium pot or saute pan to a medium-high heat. add olive oil, heat oil for 15-20 seconds and add in shallots and saute for 1-2 minutes. once shallots have softened, toss in garlic and rice. make sure rice is dry otherwise you won’t be able to get a nice toast on the kernels.
using a wooden spoon, toss rice around until you start seeing golden spots on the rice (4-5 minutes). at that point, add in dry white wine and cook off for another 2-3 minutes.
this next step is the most crucial and time consuming to make great risotto! bring heat down to medium heat and add in 1/2 a cups worth of stock and stir. once the broth has been absorbed and incorporated, continue adding the stock in 1/2 cup increments every 3-4 minutes while folding in the rice. 15 minutes or so will pass until your rice becomes almost al-dente.
remove jujubes from the broth pot and add to risotto, toss in mushrooms, add butter and 1/2 cup of stock. stir and fold for around 5 minutes until the mushrooms cook down until rice has completely softened.
toss in parmesan and pepper and stir until cheese has melted and pepper is evenly distributed
garnish with chopped chives and enjoy!