Mary Oliver Mushroom Risotto

by Cara Nicoletti on March 26, 2012


Last week I read an article about a species of mushroom discovered in the Amazon by a group of Yale students which happily survives eating plastic in oxygen-free environments. Leave it to mother nature to solve the problem of landfills when we humans can’t. Ever since reading the article I’ve had mushrooms on the brain (no, not like that), so when the girls from Oona-verse contacted me to ask if I would cook them a contemporary poem I knew exactly what poem I would cook. Mary Oliver is known for her naturalistic poetry, and her poem “Mushrooms” is one of my very favorites. If you weren’t already a mushroom lover this poem will be enough to get your mouth watering for them–even her descriptions of poisonous mushrooms are irresistible.


I ended up leaving out the dried porcinis, they were too overpowering

Rain, and then
the cool pursed
lips of the wind
draw them
out of the ground -
red and yellow skulls
pummeling upward
through leaves,
through grasses,
through sand; astonishing
in their suddenness,
their quietude,
their wetness, they appear
on fall mornings, some
balancing in the earth
on one hoof
packed with poison,
others billowing
chunkily, and delicious -
those who know
walk out to gather, choosing
the benign from flocks
of glitterers, sorcerers,
panther caps,
shark-white death angels
in their town veils
looking innocent as sugar
but full of paralysis:
to eat
is to stagger down
fast as mushrooms themselves
when they are done being perfect
and overnight
slide back under the shining
fields of rain.




Wild mushrooms are all over the market right now, which made cooking this poem even more exciting. Risotto is a wonderful way to let their delicious flavors sing, it is rich and decadent and comforting and full of creamy, woody mushroom flavor. I used Hon Shimeji, Chanterelle, Hedgehog and Maitake mushrooms but feel free to use any that you enjoy most.



Wild Mushroom Risotto
Makes about 5 servings

  • 1/4 lb each: Hon Shimeji, Hedgehog, Chanterelle and Maitake mushrooms or whatever wild mushrooms you prefer
  • 1 stick + 2Tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • olive oil for sauteing (about 2/3 cup total)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 8 cups hot chicken broth (64 oz)
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for serving
  • salt and pepper to taste



First, sautee the mushrooms. I did this in two batches because I have a small sautee pan, but also because different kinds of mushrooms will have different cooking times, so cooking them all together can be tricky. I cooked the hedgehogs and the chanterelles together because they are similar in size and water content. Same goes for the maitakes and hon shemejis. Add a half stick of butter to your pan with about 1/8 cup olive oil and cook until butter is melted. Add two cloves of garlic, crushed, and about 5 sprigs of thyme, then add your mushrooms and cook, salting to taste, until golden brown. Repeat this with your second batch of mushrooms, but first drain the oil out of the pan and refresh it.


Set your mushrooms aside and chop your onion in a medium dice. Toss the onions in a large pot coated with olive oil and cook over medium heat until translucent. While the onions are cooking heat up your chicken broth in a separate pan. Once the onions are translucent and soft, add your risotto rice and toast about 2 minutes. Add white wine to rice and onions and cook, stirring often until wine is absorbed. Begin adding your hot chicken broth in batches and stir frequently until each batch is absorbed. When there is only a little liquid left to be absorbed add in your cooked mushrooms and continue to cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is soft but slightly al dente. Add remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup grated cheese and stir until incorporated. Serve immediately with extra parmesan. To take this risotto up a notch, put a soft poached or blistered egg on top.


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Leave a Comment

Keely March 26, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Mushroom risotto is my fav! What a great post. However in the recipe you left out the quantity for the rice. Will be sure to try this soon though, love the many types of mushrooms.


yummybooks March 26, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Thank you so much for noticing that, Keely! Just fixed it!


Toomanyronis March 27, 2012 at 9:26 am

I’m a very lucky person because I actually got to eat this dish and I can tell you all that it was incredibly delicious and you should definitely make it.


yummybooks March 27, 2012 at 7:46 pm

you’re ma best fren


{Adventuresindinner} March 27, 2012 at 11:51 am

Well, what to have for dinner is nicely sorted now C:

Happily following you.


yummybooks March 27, 2012 at 7:49 pm

so glad to have you! Your blog is beautiful, what a wonderful thing for your daughter to someday look back on. If you do make the risotto let me know how it turns out!


welpshucks March 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Dangit, I wish I could have burried my face in that. Sounds delicious. And what a deliciously beautiful poem! (even though, usually, bleghk! poetry!)


yummybooks March 27, 2012 at 7:55 pm

I wish you could have too! I was thinking about you while mushroom shopping, I know how much you adore fungai. Next time I make it you’ll be the first person i call.


theslowlowdown March 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm

This looks absolutely beautiful…and thanks for posting the poem. I do a mushroom risotto fairly frequently, and add mushrooms to my stock recipe to deepen that mushroom flavor.


yummybooks March 27, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Thanks for the tip! I originally put dried porcinis in a portion of the heated broth to add in but the flavor was a little overpowering. I imagine with fresh mushrooms it wouldn’t be as strong.


(r) March 28, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Dear Cara,

What a wonderful post! Thanks for taking up our challenge

–(r) from the oonaverse


yummybooks April 4, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Thank YOU for the challenge! My head is swimming with food-filled poetry now!


The Cozy Herbivore March 29, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I was not familiar with Mary Oliver before reading this post, but that poem is so unbelievably beautiful that I am inspired to read more of her stuff! Thanks for introducing me to her!

And the risotto looks amazing… I love mushrooms and I love starchy rice dishes, so you can believe this will be made at my house soon!


yummybooks April 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm

If you make it let me know how it turns out! But beware… I’m also a sucker for mushrooms and starchy dishes and I ate enough for five people.


Becky April 2, 2012 at 10:47 pm

I think this looks incredible! My blog doesn’t even compare. wow!


elsophie April 3, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I linked to your blog today, I love it so much! Thanks for the inspiration –


yummybooks April 4, 2012 at 11:45 pm

You are a very popular lady, Elizabeth! Your beautiful site got me a nice number of hits–thank you so much!


The Hedgehog cooks... April 3, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Oh the joys of discovery, even tho it was through a recommendation from another blogger, I am delighted to have found you, Being from a Northern Italian family, risotto is daily bread, sort of. Porcinis of course are the king of mushrooms for us but I agree with you about the intensity of the flavor when dried.

I have found that to save time and have them at the ready one great way of doing this is to wash them well first to loosen any bit of the good Earth that may be still be clinging to them, then reconstitute them in white wine with a bit of hot water, strain them, reserving the liquid, then cut them into strips and divide them into as many portions as they may yield for a recipe.

Then freeze them individually in the reserved liquid. They do not lose any flavor, they do not become slimy or any other detrimental state providing you do not reconstitute them into oblivion. I will spend more time with your blog this evening. I just love what I see.


yummybooks April 5, 2012 at 12:03 am

This is such wonderful information, thank you, Alegra! I would love to see what you’re doing on your blog, my email address is on the “about” page should you want to send an invite my way. Thank you again!


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