There is a certain sound in the air. Have you heard it? It’s a happy sound. I think you know what it is. It is the change of seasons. There has been a subtle shift in the atmosphere here. A slight changing of the angle of light and an indefinable quality ringing through the air.
People unfamiliar with Southern California always (unmelodiously) ask… “Oh, but don’t you miss the seasons?”
Well if by seasons you mean driving around in the snow, sleet and hail whether you want to or not, then my answer is: “No, heck no!”
But if by seasons you mean that certain melodic changing of the emotional guard that co-ordinates with a change in pitch in the weather, then I say “No, heck no. We have beautiful seasons here!”
Because there are wonderful changes associated with the seasons, even in Los Angeles. Sure they are not drastic extremes, but I don’t really feel I need that kind of drama in my life.
In Los Angeles, despite the glorious sunshine, the autumn brings us noticeably cooler temperatures, especially at night. My favorite part of the change from summer to autumn in LA is the slight change in the light. The sun sits at a lower angle on the horizon so everybody and everything looks just a bit prettier. There is also that song in the air that I mentioned earlier. It’s quite a catchy little tune.
There are changes at the Hollywood Farmers Market too. Peaches and other summer crops are giving way to apples and pears. There are certain late season crops like tomatoes that are especially great in very early fall.
This is also that peak window of opportunity for chanterelle mushrooms. You can hear their golden voices about this time every year, and today was no exception.
I could hear them singing along with the chill in the air this morning as I walked down the hill to the Hollywood Farmers Market. I did not know when I got out of bed this morning that this would be their time to shine. But when I heard their happy little harmony I knew we were poised for a special dinner tonight. There is no chanteuse like a chanterelle!
So for this weeks Market Matters I decided to join the chorus of happy voices celebrating the changing of the season. Sing along with me, I know you want to!
- 8 T unsalted butter
- 1 large onion, cut in 1/4″ dice
- 1 c arborio rice
- 1â„4 c white wine
- 6 c chicken stock
- salt and white pepper to taste
- 1â„2 c parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 large zucchini, cut in 1/4″ dice
- 1 t red wine vinegar
- 4 sli prosciutto
- very good olive oil for drizzling
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 2 c chanterelle mushrooms, in bite sized chunks
Melt half of the the butter in a large pan with sloped sides. Add the onions and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 8 minutes.
In the meantime add the stock to a saucepan and bring it to a very low simmer.
Add the rice and stir until well coated with butter. Cook until the butter browns some and the pan needs deglazing. Add the white wine to loosen any brown butter from the bottom of the pan.
Slowly pour in the stock ladle full by ladle full a little at a time, stirring between each addition. Wait to add more until the previous addition is nearly absorbed.
Keep cooking and adding more stock until the rice is al dente and creamy, about 20 minutes. But don’t rely on timing, taste the rice often to obtain the perfect texture. Do not worry if you do not use all the stock to achieve the right texture. Taste for seasoning.
Take the rice off the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter, the Parmesan cheese, diced zucchini and the red wine vinegar. Leave the rice alone for a minute so that the rice absorbs most the liquid.
In the meantime, fry the prosciutto in a barely oil slicked pan set over medium heat. Try to keep the slices whole, but it’s fine if they break apart. Remove them, when crisp, to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Add 1 tablespoons of butter to the same pan and let it melt. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft. Add a few tablespoons of the leftover stock and deglaze the pan. Add the final tablespoon of butter, a dash of olive oil and the lemon juice.
To serve, spoon the risotto on to plates and pour the mushrooms and juices over each serving. Top with the fried prociutto.
You may have to add a bit more stock to the risotto right before stirring to keep the consistency creamy. There should be some thick liquid surrounding the grains, but it should not be too brothy.