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Morel Risotto Cakes

Morel Risotto Cakes
T. Susan Chang for NPR /

Make the risotto the day before.

Makes 2 generous servings

1 ounce dried morel mushrooms

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

Leaves stripped from two generous sprigs of thyme, finely chopped

5 or 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, chopped into 1/4-inch dice

1 cup arborio, carnaroli or other risotto rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

4 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 tablespoon olive oil (for finishing the cakes)

Soak the morels in 1 cup boiling water until they soften, about 15 minutes. Drain over a small bowl and set aside, reserving the soaking water. Chop any fragments or imperfect morel pieces, reserving a few perfect morels for garnish.

In a 9- or 10-inch skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat until the butter foam subsides. Add the minced shallot and thyme, sweat for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped shiitakes and the chopped morels; stir and cook, covered, over low heat, for 15 minutes.

While the shiitakes are cooking, heat the chicken stock in a saucepan (it needs to be hot, but doesn't have to boil). When the shiitakes are done, uncover their pan and add the rice. Raise the heat to medium and stir, until all the rice is coated and the pan begins to dry out.

Add the wine and simmer briefly until the pan dries again. Add the reserved morel soaking liquid and stir, over low heat, until absorbed. Continue cooking over low heat, adding hot chicken stock little by little, until the rice grains start to become tender and the risotto is developing a creamy texture, about 25 minutes.

Stir in the Parmigiano and remove from heat.

Scrape the risotto into a flat-bottomed dish or tray and smooth it out. It should form a layer about a half-inch thick. Refrigerate overnight.

To shape and finish the risotto cakes the next day, use a 3 1/2- to 4-inch round cutter to cut cakes out of the risotto layer. (You should be able to make 4.) Carefully remove the cakes with a spatula and set aside on a plate.

Heat a heavy skillet over a high flame until a drop of water dances on its surface. Add the oil and sear the cakes until golden brown on each side, 1 to 2 minutes per side (if the oil starts to smoke, turn the flame down to medium). At the last moment, toss in the reserved morels for garnish. Remove the cakes to a plate and serve immediately.

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