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Risotto


elyse
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When I am trying to make several 'finished just in time' dishes I use the PC sometimes for risotto. Of course, I could select my dishes better. Also the advantage is more like 20 minutes, since the PC time is (largely) unattended. The rest of the time I enjoy the stirring :)

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As this thread has been reopened, can I reask the question about stirring or not?

In my experience you can achieve an adequate texture making a pilaf-type rice through absorption with no stirring.

When the rice is stirred continually, however, the starch seems to release and create a rich texture and mouth feel similar to what is found when fat is added to dishes.

To stir or not to stir?

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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As this thread has been reopened, can I reask the question about stirring or not?

In my experience you can achieve an adequate texture making a pilaf-type rice through absorption with no stirring.

When the rice is stirred continually, however, the starch seems to release and create a rich texture and mouth feel similar to what is found when fat is added to dishes.

To stir or not to stir?

Stir! Stirring helps to break down the rice and make it creamy. I made this last night: Mushroom Leek Risotto, sans heavy cream, because really, heavy cream has no place in risotto. The rice is creamy enough.

Eating pizza with a fork and knife is like making love through an interpreter.
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Actaully, you DON'T want to stir risotto continuously, that breaks the cuticle of the rice early, and releases the starch early, causing potential sticking problems. Stir only when you add the hot broth, and stir gently, then let it simmer. Once the risotto is done, then you "beat" it by stirring pretty violently to break the cuticle and release the starch at that point.

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When I'm making risotto that's going to be served on its own plate with nothing else (this is almost always how I like to eat it), I stir and I call it risotto. Sometimes I make one pot rice dishes that are like risotto (I learned this from the Lidia's Italy show). For example: you take a heavy pot, cook some mirepoix, add some thyme, add some chunks of boneless chicken thigh, add rice, add stock, cover, check absorption after 10 or so minutes (add frozen peas around this time), return 18 minutes later, add butter and cheese and it's ready. This takes me around 45 minutes to do with prep. Fast, easy, and risotto-like but I don't call it risotto because I reserve that name for a dish that I take the utmost care to make as perfect as possible each time.

I might not be able to tell in a blind taste test whether risotto's been stirred or not, but to me risotto's about technique and I think that the kind of attention that stirring requires is a part of what I call risotto. This kind of attention to detail can become ridiculous (as we've seen earlier lampooned in this thread) or it can become part of a dogmatic program that takes the fun out of cooking, but I think its value really is that when you're stirring you're paying attention to the tertium quid that makes dishes like risotto beyond good. That's just me though--do what works for you, but I'd try it both ways before you decide what's best.

nunc est bibendum...

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Given the Corialis effect (different directions of stir depending on which side of the equator you're on), what do they do on risotto pirate ships when they are near or at the equator? (I mean, in addition to the things typical sailors do at the equator :blink: ) After risking their lives to steal the finest rice, they must have a special technique - maybe it's something like the "spoon in the center, stir outwards" technique? Probably a major risotto pirate secret - if we ever found out, we'd be beaten to death with a pirate's dual-use pegleg/spurtle...

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  • 7 months later...

I prefer to use the Rodenberry Corbomite Maneuver. It doesn't matter which side of the equator you are on.

Most of my risotto experience is from Gordon Ramsay. And also from eating at Carrabbas. You just have to think they aren't stirring rice for 20 minutes to make it to order, and in one show during prep time, they reference "have you done the risotto". At Carrabbas, i know its par-cooked and then you see them just stir/heat it for a few mins and add cheese.

jaymer...

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I prefer to use the Rodenberry Corbomite Maneuver. It doesn't matter which side of the equator you are on.

Most of my risotto experience is from Gordon Ramsay. And also from eating at Carrabbas. You just have to think they aren't stirring rice for 20 minutes to make it to order, and in one show during prep time, they reference "have you done the risotto". At Carrabbas, i know its par-cooked and then you see them just stir/heat it for a few mins and add cheese.

jaymer...

This leads to a more general question I have about risotto. I've never had it, but it seems to be held in great esteem. The descriptions seem to be very similar to a rice dish I do really like but is far less fussy.

So if I want to experience a 'proper' risotto (not the best, or magnificent, etc.) Would Carrabbas be an okay example? If not, is there another chain that produces a credible example? I'm not likely to seek out a fine dining experience in search of the perfect risotto unless I firmly feel that I won't be disappointed.

I had (perhaps still have) a similar dilemma with gnocchi. It didn't seem like something I was aching to pursue as a cook, but I found myself at a Buca di Beppo and had the chance to try some. It failed to turn me into a gnocchi lover. But I was left with the nagging question of whether that was a legitimate example.

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To my mind the partial cooking technique does not seem to work effectively.

Perhaps it's where I've eaten but the restaurant version of Risotto never matches up to freshly home-cooked risotto.

I've given up ordering it for myself; although I will try it if someone else orders it to see if I should vary my opinion. So far, my opinion stands.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I prefer to use the Rodenberry Corbomite Maneuver. It doesn't matter which side of the equator you are on.

Most of my risotto experience is from Gordon Ramsay. And also from eating at Carrabbas. You just have to think they aren't stirring rice for 20 minutes to make it to order, and in one show during prep time, they reference "have you done the risotto". At Carrabbas, i know its par-cooked and then you see them just stir/heat it for a few mins and add cheese.

jaymer...

This leads to a more general question I have about risotto. I've never had it, but it seems to be held in great esteem. The descriptions seem to be very similar to a rice dish I do really like but is far less fussy.

So if I want to experience a 'proper' risotto (not the best, or magnificent, etc.) Would Carrabbas be an okay example? If not, is there another chain that produces a credible example? I'm not likely to seek out a fine dining experience in search of the perfect risotto unless I firmly feel that I won't be disappointed.

I had (perhaps still have) a similar dilemma with gnocchi. It didn't seem like something I was aching to pursue as a cook, but I found myself at a Buca di Beppo and had the chance to try some. It failed to turn me into a gnocchi lover. But I was left with the nagging question of whether that was a legitimate example.

I just looked at a Carrabba's menu online and did not see risotto. In any event, I seriously doubt that any chain would produce a risotto of the quality that would make you a fan. Assuming you're still in Indy, I suspect that someone on this board could recommend a more appropriate restaurant. However, I do recommend that you try to make your own. It's slightly labor-intensive but not at all complicated, and very much worth the work, imho. Just be sure to use Arborio or Carnaroli rice. (There, now I'm going to start another debate.) The nice thing about risotto is that you can produce so many wonderful variations: a traditional Milanese version with saffron and Parm-Reg, a spring one with morels and asparagus, etc., etc.

It's my impression that really good gnocchi is more difficult to achieve at home (I'm a bit ashamed to admit I've never done it). As with risotto, chain-restaurant gnocchi is not terribly representative of what the product can be. The best gnocchi I've ever had were light, delicate concoctions. However, they function mainly as a vehicle for the sauce, similar to pasta.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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The best gnocchi I've ever had were light, delicate concoctions. However, they function mainly as a vehicle for the sauce, similar to pasta.

Talk about another debate!

Gnocchi isn't that difficult, give it a try. Its also one of those things, like risotto, that is better at home because you can make it and serve it right away.

Edited by ChickenStu (log)
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To my mind the partial cooking technique does not seem to work effectively.

I think the problem is usually one of timing rather than technique. If a risotto sits for a few minutes on the pass, takes a minute to get to you, etc, etc... it becomes gloopy or what not.

I have partially cooked risotto for home use before and found no real loss in quality as long as it is served right away.

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I'd agree with ChickenStu, making gnocchi is not difficult if you are careful about your technique. The trick I've found with gnocchi is to use "light hands" to form the dumplings. Rolling vigorously such that you compress the mixture leads to a chewy, gluggy product.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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How you stir risotto can depend on the type of rice you have. I have nearly always made risotto with supermarket arborio rice, and I like the creamy texture it gives. Out of curiosity, I recently tried some carnaroli rice instead and was surprised at how much more bite it had, and how different the end result was. A little research revealed that this was normal- arborio rice breaks down more readily than carnaroli rice and so it gives a creamier, less al dente result. I would like to think it's a personal preference but the point is that you can stir carnaroli rice more vigourously than arborio rice without the end result turning gloopy.

There's a decent amount of information on risotto in one of Blumenthal's 'in search of perfection' books, including notes on different rice varieties.

And I love gnocchi - yes, 'light hands' prevent gluten development and keep the dumplings fluffy. On a TV show last year a competitor make gnocchi in an electric mixer and the results were like rubber balls - the host literally bouncing the gnocchi on the table.

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I bought some Vialone Nano rice last week and made risotto with it for the first time this evening.

That means I've now made risotto with Arborio, Carnaroli, and Vialone Nano.

I'd have to say that while they all make excellent risottos, they tend to absorb different amounts of stock. You really need to taste and know when to stop cooking rather than just use the amount of liquid recommended in a cookbook. Moreover, all come up with a different texture in terms of: 1. creaminess from absorbing the stock, and 2. the al dente nature of the finished product.

If you have only ever had one type of rice in risotto, you might be tempted to think that risotto made with a different one was somehow wrong.

My thought is that each would best be matched with different types of core ingredients to ensure a pleasant texture profile to the finished dish.

Does anyone have experience in using different risotto rices for different dishes?

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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You're right, of course, nickrey. Elsewhere I once used the phrase "don't make strict adherence to measurements a hill for your risotto to die on". The key to judging the amount of liquid is in tasting frequently enough, past a certain point, and adding liquid in small enough doses that you can stop when the rice grains are just right, without having too loose a dish.

In my neck of the woods, imported Italian Arborio rice comes at a ridiculous price, but the plentiful local rice is short-grained, starchy, and of good quality. I've made good risottos with both Akitakomachi and Koshihikari varieties - probably Japan's most well-known varieties, nothing exceptional. One here, for example.

I'm sorry, but not having made risotto with anything else, I can't provide a cook's comparison. I have eaten enough good Italian-restaurant risotto to say that the local rices worked well. I believe that the amount of water rice will absorb will vary not only between varieties, but between harvests and locales (Thank me for not saying 'terroirs').

I'll concur on Gnocchi, too - excellent made at home, excellent in restaurants that make them well, but something to beware of in less-fastidious incarnations.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I've tried lots of different domestic (USA) and Italian Arborio and Carnaroli brands of rice over the years, in many different styles of risotto. And here is my advice:

Try the various brands and types that are available to you, in one or two favorite recipes, and then decide which ones you like best. And then adopt a very decided opinion about it, and move on. (This is easiest to pull off when you reach A Certain Age.)

Myself, I much prefer imported Arborio to any of the Carnaroli I've tried -- I love that full, rich sauce that you get with Arborio, and I now have enough experience to adjust the cooking time and liquid quantities to avoid any mushiness in the finished rice.

But of course, as Julia Child used to say, YOU might like something completely different.

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I like the Carnaroli better than Arborio. However I recently bought some Vialone Nano from Chefshop.com and it may become my new fave.

It can absorb a lot of liquid and becomes very creamy. I used it to make mushroom risotto, using dried cepes (porcini) that I ordered from Earthy.com. Sourced in the US.

They were much more flavorful than other brands I have tried.

They also had a good deal on black garlic (to which I have become addicted) and a few other things that I couldn't resist.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 1 month later...

Nickrey, here in Italy Arborio and Carnaroli are generally used when preparing meat risottos or plain milanese and piedmontese white risotto with truffles. Vialone Nano is preferred for vegetable and seafood risottos. It does absorb more liquid and has a slightly different bite. In my opinion it's also a little tastier than the other two. Of course, all three can be used for any risotto with good results.

In vino veritas

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Risotto really is a matter of taste. Some like more chew, some don't. Some like wetter, some don't. Some like more gummy/gooey, some don't. I'm firmly in the camp that I don't want any sort of bite to my rice. That's not firm -- that's uncooked. One thing I think everyone can agree on: broken grains of rice ain't pretty. And the easiest way to break them is to stir too vigorously.

I make risotto almost every morning for breakfast. The most rock solid method: 1 cup of rice, 5 cups of water, bring to a heavy boil for 20 minutes, then stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for 3-5 minutes, depending on how you like the texture. (These measurements are for my rice, my pot, my burner. These all directly affect your cooking time. Yours will be different. You need to figure it out.) The only thing that stirring does is break down the rice. That's what makes your risotto gummy. Do it too much and you break up all the rice. Do it too early, like at the beginning of cooking, and you're really doing nothing, just knocking around dry grains in water.

And sure, you can stir till water is almost all gone, add more, and repeat for 20 minutes, or you can just do it enough time to know around how much water you'll actually need, and just dump in that much to start with. You can go short, and add more as needed in the last few minutes. It's easier to add more water than remove more water, yeah? One thing I've found is that making risotto in a frying pan instead of a pot actually result in a better texture, as there's a more equal distribution of heat, and you knock around less rice with each rotation, but the rate of water evaporation is very high, as well as the increased amount of churning necessary, so you need to constantly add water and hand-hold the entire process. No thanks.

I've got an example recipe of what I do here at my blog.

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The only thing that stirring does is break down the rice. That's what makes your risotto gummy. Do it too much and you break up all the rice. Do it too early, like at the beginning of cooking, and you're really doing nothing, just knocking around dry grains in water.

I've made risotto using several different methods, and I have not found that to be the case.

Harold McGee from On Food and Cooking:

. . . To make risotto, the rice is cooked through by adding a small amount of hot cooking liquid at a time and stirring the rice until the liquid is absorbed, then repeating. . . This time-consuming technique subjects the rice grains to constant friction, and rubs softened endosperm from the surface so that it can become dissolved in the liquid phase (stirring only at the end of cooking breaks the softened grains apart rather than removing the surface layer).
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I do mean gummy. That is the intention, not pilaf.

And the rapid boiling in a large volume of water does exactly what stirring is attempting to do -- rub the rice against its neighbors -- but does it without me having to stand there, stirring, adding more water, stirring again, and does it without breaking apart the rice.

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