Risotto is one of my favorite dishes. I learned to make it several years ago and have made it many times. There is so much you can add into it and make it interesting. I received this article in an online newsletter and thought I might share it! Rocco DiSpirito from Food & Wine wrote the following article.
Risotto might seem like a simple dish—it’s basically just rice, white wine and butter—that you probably rely on for a quick weeknight meal for your family, but there are several ways you can upgrade your technique to make this meal even better.
To start off, you’ll need a pan with straight, not curved sides. Add shallots and garlic to the pan (along with butter and olive oil—the proper amount depends on the recipe that you use) but some people prefer onions instead of shallots. Here is where the chef says things get tricky: You’ll want to cook your shallots until they are translucent, not browned. You don’t want to your risotto to have a caramelized flavor.
“Risotto should have a delicate, perfumey flavor,” he explains. “It should feel like 12-ply cashmere in your mouth when you’re done.”
Once the shallots are cooked, you can add the rice. DiSpirito says your rice should be “toasted,” but makes an important addendum: The rice shouldn’t be browned, just hardened on the outside. Once the outside of the rice (which cooks faster than the inside of the grain) gets hardened, you can start adding liquids to give the rice flavor and its signature creamy texture. DiSpirito used white wine and chicken stock in his version. If you use white wine at home, you’ll want to add it to the pan first, a little at a time, stirring constantly.
“The rice should be dry,” he advises. “There shouldn’t be any liquid in the pan because the rice should have absorbed [the white wine].”
Once the wine has been absorbed, you can start adding the chicken stock, a little at a time. Always remember to stir the rice as it’s cooking.
“Risotto is like a new born baby,” says DiSpirito. “You cannot leave it alone in it’s crib.”
As you probably know, there’s no cream in risotto, but it should have a smooth texture. It can only achieve that texture from continual stirring, according to DiSpirito.
“You beat the starch out of the rice into the liquid,” he says. “So you have this thickened liquid that is enveloping the rice that is perfectly soft.”
You know that you have the texture right when it feels like a “gummy bear.” If the dish is still crunchy, you can add more liquid to the pan and stir, to keep the rice cooking.
By the end of the process, you may have poured what feels like a ton of liquid into your pan. Don’t worry, you didn’t overdo it.
“If you’re cooking risotto properly, you’re adding two to three times the volume of liquid to rice,” says DiSpirito.
During the demonstration, the chef’s assistant hardly ever moved away the stove or put down the spatula. That’s how important it is to keep the rice moving in the pan—remember, if you want to get that creamy texture, you have to “beat the starch” out of the rice. If you’re doing this at home and don’t have the luxury of a sous chef, be sure to keep your ingredients close by so that you don’t have to stop stirring to reach into a cabinet or open a drawer. Looking for a healthier version? Try using cauliflower rice.
Here is a nice recipe from America’s Test Kitchen for Mushroom Risotto
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
To avoid a bland, gummy risotto with watery, flavorless mushrooms, our mushroom risotto recipe calls for a combination of dried porcinis and fresh mushrooms, cooked separately and added to the finished risotto. To give our mushroom risotto recipe a complex flavor, we cooked the risotto in a broth enriched with the reconstituted porcini liquid and soy sauce and flavored with fresh thyme, parsley, and Parmesan.
2 bay leaves
2 tsp soy sauce
2 medium onions, chopped fine (2 cups)
1 pound Arborio Rice (2 1/8 cups)
SERVES 6 AS MAIN COURSE, 8 AS FIRST COURSE
Cremini mushrooms are sometimes sold as baby bella mushrooms. If they’re not available, button mushrooms make a fine, though somewhat less flavorful, substitute. Toward the end of cooking, judge the doneness of the rice by tasting it.
1. Tie together bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and parsley sprigs with kitchen twine. ( I like to put in what looks like a large tea ball)
2. Bring bundled herbs, porcini mushrooms, chicken broth, soy sauce, and 3 1/2 cups water to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat; reduce to medium-low and simmer until dried mushrooms are softened and fully hydrated, about 15 minutes.
3. Remove and discard herb bundle and strain broth through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl (you should have about 6 1/2 cups strained liquid); return liquid to saucepan and keep warm over low heat. Finely mince porcini and set aside.
4. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add Cremini mushrooms, 1 cup onions, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until moisture released by mushrooms evaporates and mushrooms are well browned, about 7 minutes.
5. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute, then transfer mushrooms to oven-safe bowl and keep warm in oven. Off heat, add 1/4 cup water to now-empty skillet and scrape with wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits; pour liquid from skillet into saucepan with broth.
6. Heat 3 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium heat. When foaming subsides, add remaining 1 cup onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and translucent, about 9 minutes.
7. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains’ edges are transparent, about 4 minutes.
8. Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until rice absorbs wine. Add minced porcini and 3 1/2 cups broth and cook, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes, until liquid is absorbed, 9 to 11 minutes.
9. Stir in additional 1/2 cup broth every 2 to 3 minutes until rice is cooked through but grains are still somewhat firm at center, 10 to 12 minutes (rice may not require all of broth).
10. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon butter, then stir in mushrooms (and any accumulated juices), Parmesan, and chopped parsley. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper; serve immediately in warmed bowls.