Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Risotto

Risotto (Italian for 'big rice') is an Italian rice dish, most popular in the north of Italy. Generally the rice is slowly cooked in stock, but other liquids can be used. What's described here is a basic risotto recipe. It can be eaten as is, but risotto is generally enjoyed with one or two ingredients added. Grated or ground parmesan cheese is almost always sprinkled on top.


Ingredients

400 g. risotto rice (plump, medium grain rice that contains a lot of starch, the types Arborio or Carnaroli are traditionally best)
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 glass of dry white wine
some butter, around 25 grams (a good rich butter is best)

About a liter of stock/broth, but it's a good idea to have more than you need (as the needed amount is difficult to predict). What type of stock depends on the flavour you're trying to achieve, but since the flavour of the stock will become the main flavour of the dish, good stock is a wise investment. Canned is better than cubes or powder, low-sodium stock/broth is a good idea unless you're making rock-salt, stock is generally better than broth, homemade is usually best. Make sure the stock isn't too strong or too salty, as it will be greatly condensed. Make sure the stock is clear, too, or the texture of the risotto will become gritty.


Preparation

Make sure your stock is simmering before you begin. It's important that the temparature is as high as possible, without letting the stock boil. The surface of the stock should just be moving a little. A large thick pot is best for the risotto.

Finely chop the onion and garlic and sweat them very gently (cook over medium heat, without letting them brown) in some butter (you can use olive oil, but butter is preferred). This is known as a soffritto in Italy.

Add the rice and cook until it has a transparent look (this shouldn't take long). Add some salt and pepper.

Add the wine. A hot pan will help burn out the alcohol more quickly (and create a nice dramatic effect), but make sure you don't burn the rice or the soffritto.
As the wine cooks away you will see the remaining liquid getting thicker as it's absorbing the starch from the rice. When its more or less gone, add some stock. Do not add to much stock, the rice should never be submerged in stock. Keep stirring it and keep adding more stock as it cooks away. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes.

Taste to see if the rice is done. The rice should be soft, but have enough bite to it to feel the individual grains of rice. The choice between a liquidy risotto or a firmer one is a matter of personal preference.

When put on a plate, it should spread out slowly, if it sits still it needs some more stock, if there's liquid coming from the risotto, it needs to cook down a bit more.

When it's done, stir in the butter in small chunks at the time, taste to get the amount of butter right. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
Let it sit for a minute, and then serve immediately. Risotto won't keep beyond the meal, but rehydrating it with some soup or stock can yield edible results.


Notes

This is only the most basic risotto recipe. Add ingredients only at the beginning (through the soffritto, when they need to cook with the rice) or at the very end (for ingredients that lose their flavour with too much cooking, such as herbs). If you want to use ingredients that require a very specific cooking time, like potatoes or broccoli, it's best to blanche them in advance, and add them to the risotto at the very end. It's very difficult to add them to the risotto halfway so that they will be cooked perfectly when the risotto is done. If you want the flavour of the stock to be present in these ingredients, blanche them in the stock. For some ingredients, like mushrooms, the cooking time isn't extremely important. These can simply be added to the risotto somewhere along the line.


Tips

Think of risotto as a way of making stock edible with a fork: the quality of the stock you use is the most important factor in the quality of your risotto.
Keep in mind that the color of the liquor will affect the rice. Using red wine will create a red risotto (which looks nice with fish or tomatoes).
Use cream cheese instead of butter. Saffron is often added to the stock.
Using large roasted breadcrumbs in stead of parmesan cheese will create a nice contrast in texture with the risotto. Put the breadcrumbs on top of the risotto at the last minute and don't stir or they will soak up to much moisture and loise their crunch.
After step 3 you can move the contents into a rice cooker with the stock and left to its own devices to finish it off. End result isn't quite as good, but the saving in effort makes it worthwhile.


Variations and Variaties

Replace some of the butter added during cooking with parmesan cheese or shaved parmesan on top of the dish before serving.

Mushroom risotto. Add mushrooms to the soffritto.

Cashew nut and cucumber risotto. Add chopped cucumber and roasted (unsalted) cashew nuts.

Fêta and rosemary risotto. Add the rosemary to the soffritto and stir small chunks of the fêta cheese through the risotto at the end. Use roasted breadcrumbs instead of parmesan.

1 comment:

karina_malina said...

Félicitation
votre blog est super.
bonne continuation
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