Guest blog post: Making Perfect Risotto
We are welcoming back Dress Italian with their insight to creating the perfect risotto, a dish which in my opinion is commonly pushed aside because people normally equate it to a sticky, clumpy gob of rice – yet it can be so much more with the right cook stirring the pot and these helpful pointers.
Risotto is a delicious specialty of northern Italian cooking, using northern ingredients such as rice, Parmigiano Reggiano and butter, and has now become popular throughout Italy. Though relatively simple to make, it can be quite difficult to perfect, since it is such a precisely timed operation that I would never order it in a hectic restaurant.
The main difficulty people seem to have is judging the right texture and consistency of risotto, when to stop adding stock and, more commonly, how cooked or al dente the rice should be. There are no specific answers to these questions. Risotto, more than any other dish, has a mind of its own and can be quite unpredictable. Being able to judge it properly comes with a mixture of practice, skill and intuition, and while there are classic steps for cooking risotto there is no foolproof formula.
Apart from top quality ingredients, risotto needs to be made with the right kind of rice: it must be Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano, which are stubby in appearance and have an almost nutty flavour when cooked. Don’t even try to make it with another kind – it simply will not come out right. The only rule is to keep the desired consistency in mind.
Risotto, as it is meant to be, is closer to a soup than the sorry stodge which is more often found – it is quite runny and wet, but creamy and velvety at the same time. It should pour from the pan in to the serving dish. In the time it takes to transfer I from the pan on to the table the risotto keeps cooking, so part of the knack is being able to judge by how much you undercook it so that the transfer operations can be carried out without risk of spoiling the final texture. You should always use a shallow serving dish, not a big past bowl.
There are certain guidelines no matter what kind of risotto you are making. Use quite a sturdy, thick or copper-bottomed pan that will be deep enough to contain the rice – it will expand to three times its uncooked size. A thin aluminium pan is not suitable. Use a wooden spoon. The process of cooking the rice should take between 18 and 20 minutes – cooking time varies depending on the intensity of the heat and the speed with which liquid is absorbed. The order in which ingredients are added is crucial. The flavor of a risotto is very dependent on the quality of the stock.
Check out some of Dress Italian’s fantastic recipes on their website: http://dressitalian.com/recipes