After my somewhat traumatizing $22 chicken experience last week at one of our many farmer's markets here in PDX, I had another eye-opener this past Saturday. On Saturdays' here there are two main farmer's markets. One is downtown in the city center park blocks. Very attractive setting, GREAT vendors, where all the "foodies" and wannabes go. It's a great market, but gets crazy crowded (and I preface this next comment by saying I am a huge dog lover, and our beloved Chopper brings us untold happiness, but having said that would all you market shoppers leave your big fucking dogs in the car. It's bad enough with today's giant strollers that parents have, but when you see people with their big labs, newfies, and other oversize mutts, tugging every which way, blocking the flow of an already overcrowded pedestrian walkway, it's time to get a little awareness, don't ya think? Besides, I don't think Fido gives a rat's ass about whether baby artichokes or white asparagus are available!). Then there is the market in the Hollywood neighborhood on the eastside. Much smaller, low key, but with all your basic needs covered without the throngs of people who need to "be seen" downtown. And oh yeah, much lower prices.
Take my haul Saturday. I was in a risotto frame of mind, and made a beeline for the mushroom guy at the Hollywood market. Now there is a great mushroom guy downtown, too. The fungal glory that are morel mushrooms are in high season right now. Mmmmm, morels....earthy, intense, simply amazing. Price downtown: $35 a pound. Price at Hollywood market: $20 a pound. Difference in quality: zero! Plus most other offerings are at this market are at least 10-20% less. Give me a less popular location and better prices any day. Like my experience with the chicken, if we're ever going to get everyday people on board this whole buying locally, sustainably, and any other trendy adjective you want to use, something has to give price-wise.
So what did I make with all this foraged from the forest goodness? Check out one of my all-time favorite, easy, and sensationally delicious go-to dishes. This recipe that I adapted from Gourmet magazine and Anthony Bourdain, is guaranteed to get raves from your crowd!
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Wild Mushroom Risotto
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Makes 4-6 servings.
3/4 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock or good quality broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 stick unsalted butter
3/4 lb fresh wild mushrooms such as morels, shiitakes, porcini, chanterelles, or hedgehogs, trimmed and chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped shallots (about 2)
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon white truffle oil* (optional)
3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
Bring stock to a simmer in a 4-quart pot and keep at a bare simmer, covered.
Heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until browned and soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a bowl.
Cook shallots in 2 tablespoons butter in same saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Pour in wine and stir until almost completely absorbed.
Ladle in 1 cup simmering stock and cook at a strong simmer, stirring, until absorbed. Continue simmering and adding stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring very frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is just tender and creamy-looking, 16 to 18 minutes. (Save leftover stock for thinning.)
Remove from heat and stir in remaining tablespoon butter, sautéed mushrooms, truffle oil to taste (if using), cheese, chives, and salt and pepper to taste. If desired, thin risotto with some of leftover stock.