February 7, 2012
Risotto with wild mushrooms and duck confit takes our prize

DSCF0274.jpgNot to exaggerate, but we came across a dish Monday night that is one of the most remarkably delicious we've ever tasted.

It's composed of Carmoroli risotto (white rice from northern Italy), wild hedgehog mushrooms from the California coast, duck confit (house-cured duck poached in its own fat), grana padano (the hard, grainy cheese that dates to 12th century Milan), butter, saba (a sweetish reduction from the must of Trebbiano grapes, which make balsamic vinegar) and Italian parsley.

The dish is at Piatti Ristorante at the Pavilions center, but only for the next six to eight weeks, until the end of hedgehog mushroom season. The starter bowl is $12, the entree is $17.

The dish is the creation of Piatti executive chef Ryan O'Malley, who's led the kitchen there for three years. Previously, as a sous chef he helped open the Grange at the downtown Citizen Hotel, and Hawks at Quarry Ponds Center in Granite Bay.

I asked chef O'Malley for a sound bite:

"We take the duck off the bone, discard the skin and shred the meat," he said. "We roast the mushrooms in the wood-burning oven and hit them with a little extra-virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. They soak that up.

"We toast the rice until it starts to crack, add onion and a good amount of white wine, and keep adding chicken stock a little bit at a time, stirring until the rice is creamy.

"At the very end - when I add the duck and the mushrooms - I'm stirring constantly to emulsify the cheese and butter."

Among my tasting notes:
"Succulent...steaming hot...shreds of meaty, tender, dark-tasting duck...earthy mushrooms with a great 'chew factor' and comforting...a perfect marriage of ingredients and flavors."

Pavilions is on Fair Oaks Boulevard near Howe Avenue. For Piatti: (916) 649-8885,

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