Tuesday’s Tip of the Week, getting Risotto right

It’s no secret that I love me some Risotto, and so have spent some time trying to improve my end product. Risottos(i) are great because of how easy it is to combine them with other ingredients to compose a dish. Unlike pastas they don’t need much sauce, and unlike polentas they have some character alone and don’t need much fat to make them super tasty.

There isn’t much complexity to making a good risotto, they just need a good portion of your attention for about 20mins. After the jump, I’d like to share with you some things I’ve learned that help in making sure you end up with consistently good results.

As with all cooking, the end product depends on what you put into the dish as ingredients, and with Risottos, the stock you use is critically important. Good quality stock (preferably home-made and fresh) does wonders to the final dish. I’ve rarely gone through the hassle of making home-made stock, but when used, you can really taste the difference.

The type of rice grain is critically important too, use either Arborio or Carnaroli rice (my wife’s recently introduced me to the latter and I’ve gotten far more consistent results, I think I like Caranaroli more than Arborio now).

Risottos are generally cooked in a three-phase process:

1. Sauteeing the aromatics and toasting the rice (about 3-5m)

2. Adding the stock and mixing  to cook the rice (about 12-16min)

3. Adding the flavoring ingredients (about 3-5min)

The entire process shouldn’t take more than 20mins.

It’s important to toast the rice grains with the onions and garlic at the start until they’re just about translucent, this helps to make sure that the grains are cooked more consistently in phase 2

When adding the stock, add about 1/4 of the total amount (usually the ratio is about 1L of stock per cup of rice) in the beginning and then add it by the ladle as you stir constantly and the rice absorbs the stock

It’s important to stir the rice constantly, it doesn’t need to be furious aggressive stirring, just move it about often to make sure it absorbs the stock evenly

Do not add the extra ingredients before the end of the cooking. The flavourings (proteins, vegetables etc) will absorb the stock and over cook, also the constant stirring might mash them and make them unappealing. If you want to integrate a certain flavour into the risotto from the beginning, do so in liquid form, such as adding apple juice with the stock for an apple risotto, using fish stock instead of chicken stock for a chicken risotto, etc.

Most proteins should be cooked separately and added to the risotto right at the end to warm through.

There is no need to add cream to a risotto, it makes the dish unnecessarily heave and hides the lovely subtle creaminess of the starchy rice.

It’s always a good idea to add some parmesan before finishing up a risotto, about 2tbsp per cup of rice right at the end and stir it in to make sure it’s mixed in homogeneously. A dash of olive oil at the end as well won’t hurt the dish : )

Always plate a risotto when it looks wetter and looser than you think you’d like to eat it, the rice continues to absorb the cooking liquid and the dish will be much drier by the time you plate it.

A good risotto is cooked al dente, like a pasta; it must be cooked through, but with a little bite to it.

Hope you find the above useful and that you enjoy your risotto!

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