26 October 2011

Day 49: The Risotto Method

From stocks to soups to sides and now, finally, a solid food dish that could conceivably be a meal all by itself, risotto.

I don't remember the first time I learned about risotto, but I do remember thinking, "Wait, it's just rice?" Oh, the folly of youth. Because A) I can and have eaten rice for consecutive decades, and B) it's really, really tasty rice. Creamy and nutty and luscious and all that.

And it's customizable! Since Le Cordon Bleu is all about techniques over recipes, and risotto is a technique, our chef-instructor taught us the basic risotto method – in Italian, no less – with which one could easily make their own plate of creamy rice deliciousness. As my favorite Italian, a super plumber named Mario, would say, "Let's-a go!"

The Risotto Method
  1. Soffrito* - Saute aromatics. The word means suffer, so imagine onions weeping out their moisture.
  2. Riso - Add the rice. Coat it in the fat the aromatics are currently sauteing in and let toast a little.
  3. Vino - Wine, to deglaze the pan and add a wee bit of flavor. Cook until almost dry.
  4. Brodo - Broth. The liquid should be hot so as not to stop the rice's cooking process. Adding a little at a time promotes more even cooking.
  5. Condimenti - Butter and cheese and salt. And, if you're feeling sexy, vegetables and cooked meats or seafood.
*Not to be mistaken with the Spanish sofrito, although the basic idea is the same. This is the flavor base.

The condiment step is an obvious spot for getting creative, but really every step of the way can be switched up somehow. Different stocks/broths, wines, etc.

As for the rice, starchy short-grain varieties work best. Our chef-instructor recommended three: arborio, carnaroli, and vialone nano. I've read more than handful of recipes recommending bomba. I've actually made half-decent risotto using calrose, but that should probably be a too-lazy-to-go-to-the-store last resort.

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