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Risotteria


Sandra Levine
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"Cooking rice (which is essentially what risotto is), is NOT difficult."

My grandfather used to say, "Anything's easy once you know how to do it". His homily may not apply to producing fissionable nuclear materials, but it does apply to a lot of cooking methods. The difficult part lies in devoting the time and energy to understanding and mastering the method. If you are reasonably competent in the kitchen, and if you are instructed by someone knowledgeable in making risotto, and if you make it every day for a week, then by the end of the week, you will be making good risotto. As with so many things, the distance from good to exceptional is great, and depends on much more than a command of the technique, principally ingredients and timing.

I'm more than willing to believe that pressure cooking or par cooking can produce a good risotto. I'd like to try this risottoria place. That said, I have never had a good risotto in a restaurant in the US. I don't know why, because I don't know what goes on in the kitchen. But I do know that a skilled cook starting from scratch and doing it right, can produce one. Clearly, this has never occured in my experience with restaurant risotto.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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My comment was limited to New York City, Steve, for the most part, I guess, because I've never waited 45 minutes for risotto in NYC, indicating that it has been prepared from scratch at an unreasonable cost to the restaurant.

I've had great risotto in Italy, many times. This has been a function of the wait, the ingredients, and of having it served immediately, the latter being essential to a consummate risotto experience.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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Oh, something else occurred to me.

As tangent to Steve P's. argument of what constitutes "not real risotto", that would include abominations such as apple risotto, grape risotto, foie gras risotto, and roast turkey risotto (made with leftovers the day after Turkey Day). No thanks, thank you very much!

Back to topic...ahem.

SA

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Soba - No that isn't correct. "Real risotto" means that it is prepared in the old fashioned method of stirring the broth into the rice by hand with a wooden spoon. And as Robert so deftly points out in his initial post on the topic, it ain't just simple stirring. It is a motion and technique that one has to learn by practicing. Sort of like learning how to spread out pizza dough so the consistancy is even including throwing the sucker into the air so gravity can do its share in the dough spreading process. As for whether restaurant risotto is as good as the old fashioned method, I won't take sides in that argument other than to say that in my experience the risotto in the U.S. is kind of gloopy and in Milan it is nuttty, to the the tooth and nuanced in a way that makes it distinct.

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Will somebody give me a million dollars so I can stop working and spend all my time on the board? Or maybe Plotnicki can adopt me. He needs a son to corrupt. (I agree with Daddy that it's hard to find well made risotto in resturants -- perhaps because of the short-cuts.)

Are there any chefs/restaurant owners on the site who can tell us whether risotto sells well when it's put on a menu? I think that will give us a better idea about American's acceptance of the dish than looking to a risotto only place. (Are risotteria's popular in Italy, or is this an American creation?) I know a lot of people who don't order it -- especially as an appetizer -- because it's pretty heavy no matter how you slice it. Perhaps it would be difficult to get 2, 3, or 4 people who all want risotto for dinner on the same night. Also, as someone above mentioned, risotto usually doesn't have the range of flavor that Americans associate with pasta -- nor will it come drenched in a meat sauce.

As for home cooking, I find risotto much easier to cook than regular rice, although definitely more labor intensive. I mean, you're staring at it the whole time. How can you screw it up? And you can always finish it with butter or cream. Regular rice, for many people, is a leap of faith. You put the top on and hope you've got the right water/rice ratio, hope your slow burner isn't to hot or cool, and hope you've got a good seal. Sure, you may be able to fix it if it's not right, but it's not easy to do. (In fact, not being able to make rice appeared very often on this exciting thread.

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Soba - No that isn't correct. "Real risotto" means that it is prepared in the old fashioned method of stirring the broth into the rice by hand with a wooden spoon. And as Robert so deftly points out in his initial post on the topic, it ain't just simple stirring. It is a motion and technique that one has to learn by practicing. Sort of like learning how to spread out pizza dough so the consistancy is even including throwing the sucker into the air so gravity can do its share in the dough spreading process. As for whether restaurant risotto is as good as the old fashioned method, I won't take sides in that argument other than to say that in my experience the risotto in the U.S. is kind of gloopy and in Milan it is nuttty, to the the tooth and nuanced in a way that makes it distinct.

I knew what you were talking about. When I make risotto, its always the traditional method. (Besides, I don't have a pressure cooker at home, but that's another story.) My tangent is that I'm a stickler for traditional risottos, or if you want to describe it another way, risotto made in the traditional manner with traditional ingredients or ingredients "in-the-style-of" Italy. Not new-fangled risottos that you would find in a New Age/post-contemporary vegetarian cookbook. And believe me, they're out there. There are risottos that are the equivalent of Wolfgang Puck and his new age pizza, that make me gag when I think about it. So, applying my definition, that would mean asparagus risotto, topped with shavings of Parm-Reg., not apple risotto with caramelized apples and apple crisps. (Its probably good, but "not real risotto", imo.)

So, the definition of a "not real risotto" includes a lot of other things, at least as they apply to *MY* dictionary. Do they apply to yours? Well, perhaps or perhaps not.

SA

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(Are risotteria's popular in Italy, or is this an American creation?)
It's an American creation. So is the archtypical "spaghetti joint." On the other hand, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have made inroads into Italy. Who knows what's popular these days?
I know a lot of people who don't order it -- especially as an appetizer -- because it's pretty heavy no matter how you slice it
--Slice it? You mean pizza. :biggrin:
Perhaps it would be difficult to get 2, 3, or 4 people who all want risotto for dinner on the same night.
The single food restaurant is not so uncommon here and the risotteria is not exactly a fancy white tablecolth restaurant. I suspect it's a cut above going out for burgers, maybe a cut above pizza and less of a deal than sushi.
Also, as someone above mentioned, risotto usually doesn't have the range of flavor that Americans associate with pasta -- nor will it come drenched in a meat sauce.
No "drenched in sauce" risottos, but pasta drenched in sauce is also a pretty American thing rather than something imported from Italy. However the range of flavors must compare with pasta.

Robert Buxbaum

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Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Unless they have spent some time in Milan, people don't realize how simple a dish risotto is the way they eat it over there. I never see people eating it with anything in it. Just a plain plate of a not too large portion of saffron colored rice that people eat as a pasta course. The whole idea is to taste the nuttiness of the rice which is accented by a quality broth, cheese and saffron. Putting other ingredients in your risotto, while acceptable and even delicious, sort of defeats the purpose of the dish the way they have it

situated in the meal. A typical meal in a Milanese tratorria consists of maybe some salumi, a plate of risotto that is very casual looking. And what I mean by that is it's just sort of piled on the plate and not formed into any nice shape. And it really isn't a huge portion but enough to act as the starch course. And then roasted, fried or stewed meats usually served with cloudlike polenta. Only in truffle season does it change and then they forego the saffron.

In this country they treat pasta dishes as a main course. And there are countless things they add to your pasta to make them work as a main dish. That approach works less well with risotto because rice is not as good a foil for other ingredients as pasta is. That's why a seafood risotto works so well because the rice soaks up a good brodo (broth) and the flavor is intense. Even vegetable risottos that use a great vegetable broth work well. But you have to sort of like wet food to enjoy those dishes and I don't think that texture is very American. Pasta is different because it doesn' sop up the sauce. The sauce clings to the strands of pasta.

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Unless they have spent some time in Milan, people don't realize how simple a dish risotto is the way they eat it over there. I never see people eating it with anything in it. Just a plain plate of a not too large portion of saffron colored rice that people eat as a pasta course. The whole idea is to taste the nuttiness of the rice which is accented by a quality broth, cheese and saffron. Putting other ingredients in your risotto, while acceptable and even delicious, sort of defeats the purpose of the dish the way they have it

situated in the meal.

That's why humans invented the concept of variety, because eating the same thing over and over, while correct as the French would say, is pretty boring in the larger scheme of things. :smile:

I would venture to say that real Italians do in fact put things in risotto besides brodo, cheese and saffron. Just because you've never seen it in Milan doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Maybe they were hiding, I dunno.

SA

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The plain version is Milanese, right? Are risottos (risotti?) in other regions more elaborate? For example, this site states that in Piemonte

In past times a "risotto" might compose the entire meal, enriched with "funghi porcini" (mushrooms), fondue, eels and frogs from the Po River, little birds on a spit, and other delicacies.
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Why do Americans pronounce risotto wrong?

Er, how do they pronounce it?

SA

Ris-oh-to. Or as if there's only one 't' in the middle. Not making any claims for the English, as such. They just pronounce it the same way as the Italins, as I guess most countries do.

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To prounce it correctly - the R should be slightly rolled. The s is not pronounced like a z - it's softer than that, without being an English s. The emphasis is on the second syllable. The second and third syllables do not rhyme with "no" - it's a softer o, and we don't have it in English. The second and third syllables also do not rhyme exactly with each other - the third syllable has a slightly longer vowel. The the two t's are not pronounced like a d. It's a soft t - again, we don't have it in English.

Americans typically say "reez-oh-doe"

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The whole idea is to taste the nuttiness of the rice which is accented by a quality broth, cheese and saffron. Putting other ingredients in your risotto, while acceptable and even delicious, sort of defeats the purpose of the dish the way they have it situated in the meal.

I recently had a dish as you describe made for me by a Milanese woman as a first course before a wonderful osso buco. It is perfect.

I have a recipe for a seafood rosotto that calls for the precooked ingredients (lobster, crab and shrimp) to be reduced to practically a pulp and mixed/cooked into the rice at the last minute.

The effect is eating rice that magically is full of the taste of the sea without any "ingredients" to speak of. If you use a full flavored fish stock, enhamced with the shells of the lobster and shrimp, it is a knock-out dish that makes a great starter. Drink a crisp Reisling or even an Alsatian wine with this and it is one of the best courses you can have.

I've tried several different brands and types of Italian short grained rice. ChefShop sells some pretty good ones. Does anyone have a real favorite you've tested vs others?

Wilfrid--I say riz-oh-to because whenever I hear someone say riz-otto I think he's a snob who wants people to think he's English. (uness of course he's an English snob):biggrin:

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To prounce it correctly - the R should be slightly rolled. The s is not pronounced like a z - it's softer than that, without being an English s. The emphasis is on the second syllable. The second and third syllables do not rhyme with "no" - it's a softer o, and we don't have it in English. The second and third syllables also do not rhyme exactly with each other - the third syllable has a slightly longer vowel. The the two t's are not pronounced like a d. It's a soft t - again, we don't have it in English.
Americans typically say "reez-oh-doe"

What are you, Professor Henry F*ckin Wugmeister Higgins? :biggrin:

The rrriszAHtoh in Milan falls mainly on the piazza.

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For words that are in common English usage, I favor English-language pronunciations. Do you pronounce Paris par-EEH?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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