Chronicle Books has always has an affinity for design. One of their most beautiful books, in my opinion, is their book on champagne by Sara Slavin and Karl Petzke.
Champagne: The Spirit of Celebration is one heavy paper with lovely striped endpapers. There is a grand mix of vintage images and crisp modern photos. The recipes form a handful of vibrant, sensuous dishes for any table. It is a rare combination, a handsomely bound book that is also a grand little cookbook.
As you can tell, I’m a big fan of risotto as a festive entrée. This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I have gone back to it year after year and it always impresses.
Champagne Risotto with Wild Mushrooms
4 cups beef broth
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound wild mushrooms (morel, shiitake, etc.), stemmed and sliced
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 1/4 cup champagne
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Heat broth to a simmer and let simmer until later. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter begins to foam, add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Place the remaining butter in a large heavy-bottomed sauce pan and sauté the shallots until soft, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute to coat with the butter-shallot mixture. Add 1 cap of the champagne, reserving 1/4 cup. Stir until champagne is completely absorbed.
Begin to add simmering broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently, but waiting until the broth is absorbed before adding more. After 18 to 20 minutes the rice should be tender but still firm. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup of champagne, mushrooms, half and half, cheese, and parsley. Serve immediately.
There are several wonderful histories of champagne. Patrick Forbes’ Champagne: The Wine, The Land and The People is an older book, but one of the best I have ever read on the history of both the drink and those who make it.
For this eve of a New Year, raise a glass of champagne or a bowl of risotto and toast the year to come.