If you've never tried bulgar, it's a crushed wheat grain that has been parboiled and then dried. It has a very nutty flavor, and cooks up with a texture similar to couscous- it's the grain most commonly used in tabbouleh salad. In order to make a complete dish, we hit Whole Foods for a few extra ingredients. A very rare occurrence for us, but we'd been holding on to our Living Social deal for a special treat.
|What you'll need if you'd like to follow along!|
- bulk baby portobellas
- two large shallots
- fresh thyme
- low-sodium chicken broth
- and some local smoked Gouda.
I started the risotto by heating 3 cups of the chicken broth (you can use vegetable or mushroom broth to keep this dish veg friendly) with 3 cups of water, keeping it covered at a simmer. One of the shallots was then finely diced and sauteed in a tablespoon of olive oil, until softened. I then added a cup of bulgar wheat, and allowed it to toast in the pan for a few minutes before adding 1/2 cup red cooking wine- but white will also do fine. Allow the liquid to absorb/steam off before moving on to the next step.
In the meantime, I prepared my mise en place by slicing the portobellas, chopping the second shallot, finely grating the gouda, and plucking leaves/finely chopping the thyme. This prep work helps make a hands-on dish a lot easier once everything gets going!
The next 45 minutes were spent in similar fashion: add the warm water/broth mixture to the pan, stir it into the bulgar mix and allow it to absorb. The first two broth additions should be voluminous- about two cups. After those are absorbed, add an additional cup, and then begin adding in 1/4-1/2 cup increments towards the end. Risotto- at least of the bulgar form- really isn't as difficult as it seems, however. Once each new addition was stirred in, I would allow it to simmer on it's own for the most part, just giving an extra stir here and there maybe every minute or so.
Once I felt comfortable letting the risotto do it's thing, I started on the sauce. Since we were making a separate protein component, I kept it simple with a mushroom focus. The baby portobellas and the second shallot, along with a chopped clove of garlic, were sauteed in butter until softened. An additional 1/2 cup of red wine was added to this mix as well. Immediately prior to serving, a sprinkle of dried rosemary and the chopped fresh thyme were stirred in, adding a rustic, woodsy flavor.
After all of the liquid had been absorbed into the bulgar, I was left with a porridge-like pan of cooked grains. While typical risotto using Arborio rice should maintain a texture of individual grains, the smaller size and shape of the bulgar made a significantly creamier final substance- a bit like slow-cooked steel cut oatmeal.
In order to bring the final dish to the next level, we stirred in a couple large handfuls of the grated cheese, and then served it with the mushroom suace.
With the colder months moving in, I have a feeling we'll be spending more time in our warm kitchen- and dishes like this, while more time consuming than I'd like for a weekday, make a special winter weekend treat!