In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high, combine chicken broth, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low, and keep warm over low heat. It is important to add hot chicken broth, not cold, to the rice during the cooking process. Adding cold broth to hot rice results in a hard, uncooked kernel in the center of the grain. Have chicken broth ready, at a low simmer in a covered saucepan before beginning to make your risotto.
In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add leeks and garlic; saute until the leeks soften. Add the mushrooms and cook until they soften. Add arborio rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the edges of the rice are translucent, approximately 4 minutes.
Cooking the rice in hot butter or oil before adding liquid helps the rice to absorb the liquids slowly with becoming soggy. This is called "Toasting the Rice." Toasting the rice quickly heats up the grain's exterior (toast until the rice is hot to the touch and the color should remain pearly white, not turn brown.
Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until wine has been completely absorbed by the rice or evaporated. Remove the thyme and bay leaf from the stock and discard.
Add 1/2 cup of hot chicken broth, stirring until almost absorbed. Continue cooking and stirring, adding a little bit of hot chicken broth (1/2 cup at a time), until the chicken broth is absorbed and until the rice is tender (but still firm to the bite), about 15 to 20 minutes.
NOTE: This risotto needs to be stirred continually until the broth is absorbed because leeks, which are drier to cook with than onions, will stick to the bottom of the pan if you do not continually stir.
Run your wooden spoon across the bottom of the pot to determine when each addition of broth is almost completely absorbed.
During the last minutes of cooking, salt and pepper to taste and add Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. At this point the rice should have a creamy consistency (it should be tender, but firm to the bite). Remove from heat.
NOTE: To test the risotto for proper consistency, spoon a little into a bowl and shake it lightly from side to side. The risotto should spread out very gently of its own accord. If the rice just stands still, it is too dry, so add a little more stock. If a puddle of liquid forms around the rice, you have added too much stock. Spoon some liquid off, or just let the risotto sit for a few more seconds off the heat to absorb the excess stock.
Makes 2 servings.
In Italy, risotto is serve mounded, steaming hot, in the center of warmed individual shallow bowls.
Among the myths associated with risotto, there is the one that you must eat it piping hot, as it comes from the pot!
Unlike pasta, risotto tastes better when it has rested on your plate a minute or so. When Italians are served risotto, they often spread it on their plate from the center toward the rim, to dissipate some of the steam.
Using a fork or a spoon, push the grains of cooked rice out slightly toward the edge of the bowl, eating only from the pulled out ring of rice.
Continue spreading from the center and eating around the edges in a circle. This will keep the risotto hot as you enjoy your risotto.