“Risotto” is one of my favorite dishes to make. Maybe it’s because it’s endlessly adaptable. Or because it can be made into a one-pot meal. It could also just be the wine. In any case, I’ve really been into experimenting with different grains, veggies, and ways to add creaminess to my endless pots of semi-risotto.
This incarnation turned out to be really unique and delicious, and I thought I should share. Buckwheat is not actually wheat at all, but a gluten-free whole grain that cooks quickly and releases some starch as it breaks down – perfect for working in a little risotto-like creaminess.
Then are the cremini mushrooms. Button or baby bella ‘shrooms could work here, too, just make sure they are the freshest of the fresh. I buy my mushrooms whole, with some dirt still attached, and having never touched a wisp of plastic wrap. If you can only find the packaged kind, transfer them directly to a paper bag upon entering your home. Don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them, and then just wipe them clean with a damp towel. They don’t like being drenched with water. Also, I’m not a big fan of the stems of any mushroom. I know they are edible (except shiitake – don’t eat those stems) but the texture is more dense, so I take them off. Just grab the stem right near the cap and gently wiggle it back and forth a few times, it should pop right out.
Cremini Buckwheat Risotto
2 T. butter, divided
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (button or baby bella work, too)
fine grain sea salt
3 leeks, white and light green part, sliced into thin half moons
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. buckwheat (or it’s toasted sister, kasha)
1 c. white wine or beer
2-3 c. warm water or stock
2 T. creme fraiche, plus more for garnish
chopped parsley (optional) for garnish
Melt 1 T. butter in a heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan over medium low. Add the mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt, and toss to coat in the butter. These guys soak up a lot of fat, so toss them quick, but don’t be too worried if some seem dry at first. After a few minutes they will start to release their liquid. Let the mushrooms keep cooking until most of the liquid is gone, then remove them from the pot and set aside.
Melt the other tablespoon of butter in the same pot. Add the leeks and cook for about 10 minutes, until they are very soft and maybe a little brown. Add the buckwheat, garlic, and a few more pinches of salt, and let cook a couple more minutes.
Pour in the wine or beer and bring to just a simmer. Stir around a lot until most of the liquid is gone. Add in 1/2 cup to 1 cup water or stock; keep stirring and adding more liquid when it disappears. You need to keep an eye out on the “bubbly-ness” of the liquid. It should stay at a quiet simmer, not too bubbly, but also not still. Keep adjusting the heat as needed to achieve this. Eventually the buckwheat will become tender. Start checking for doneness after you’ve added 2 cups of liquid, keeping in mind you may need to add another cup or more.
Once the buckwheat is tender, take it off the heat. Stir in the creme fraiche, then fold in the mushrooms. Taste, and add more salt if necessary (if you used water, you may need to add up to a teaspoon of salt). Garnish with the parsley and a few small dollops of the creme fraiche.