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Fat Guy

Vegan risotto

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The creaminess of risotto comes from the starch as well as from whatever fats you finish the risotto with, be they olive oil, butter, cheese, cream, or other stuff (I've seen supposedly authentic recipes with mascarpone as well, and I suppose animal fats might work -- schmaltz risotto, anyone?). I believe this is called the "condimenti" stage in the risotto texts. You can try to make risotto edible without any condimenti, but it's an uphill battle. I agree that you have to look at your ingredients in order to decide the appropriate condimenti. But the Italian rigidity in this matter -- for example the blanket prohibition against cheese with seafood -- is in my opinion limiting and unnecessary.

I didn't even know there were "risotto texts". Bibliography, please.

It might be worthwhile to talk briefly about the finishing stage of a correctly made risotto. The objective is to regulate the heat so that the liquid is being absorbed at a consistent rate such that the finished grains will neither be overcooked and mushy, nor undercooked and still hard inside. They should offer some resistance, but yield to the bite. It is crucial to be able to judge the texture of the rice, and to judge the rate at which liquid should be added, near the end of the cooking, so that when the butter and cheese are added, the final texture will be perfect. The risotto should then be plated and eaten immediately. Not a minute or two later. Immediately.

If one is using cream in the final stage, then the cream must be absorbed by the rice such that the perfect texture is arrived at. It would be wrong to simply stir in some cream at the end and serve the dish, as there would be liquid in the final product not integrated into the whole. In other words, there's still cooking to do once cream is added. The resulting texture of the rice must be taken into account if this is to be done.

As an aside, the "Italian rigidity" proscribing the use of cheese with seafood is a misunderstanding. Italian cuisine is highly regional, and in some areas, you will find home cooks and restaurants that will not serve cheese with seafood (Tuscany); in other areas, the Veneto, for example, it is done. Marcella Hazan offers a truly superb recipe for white clam sauce that uses butter and cheese. (I suppose if you screwed around with the concept, you could find a way to work some cream in.)


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

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Right, Italian rigidity tends to be regional.

In terms of risotto texts, I was primarily referring to the risotto chapters in the various classic English-language Italian cookbooks. I do, however, have one dedicated risotto text: Risotto, by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman (Scribners). Excellent. I see there are about 20 others listed on Amazon.com. In addition, I've got Riso, by Gioietta Vitale (Crown), which is a Northern Italian rice cookbook with about 40 pages on risotto. Not very good.


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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If one is using cream in the final stage, then the cream must be absorbed by the rice such that the perfect texture is arrived at. It would be wrong to simply stir in some cream at the end and serve the dish, as there would be liquid in the final product not integrated into the whole. In other words, there's still cooking to do once cream is added. The resulting texture of the rice must be taken into account if this is to be done.

The cream should be hot when added.

In addition, the amount of absorption sought depends on how "loose" or "tight" you want your risotto. Legitimate preferences range from soupy to quite thick. Some restaurants will enhance the final product with a bit of frothed flavor-infused-cream around the edges of the bowl.


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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Legitimate preferences range from soupy to quite thick. Some restaurants will enhance the final product with a bit of frothed flavor-infused-cream around the edges of the bowl.

No, no, FG. There is only one state of ultimate readiness for risotto, allowing, *maybe* a 5% variation. (How's that for rigidity?) One day, if you're good, I will demonstrate this for you The idea of frothing, etc. is sufficient blasphemy to convene a tribunal. You may be a witch!


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

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