The classic rules for cooking risotto demand ceaseless stirring, meticulous additions of liquid, and a fair amount of mysticism about how the dish must always be made to order. In fact, risotto is not as delicate as popularly supposed. When done properly, partially cooking the rice or other grains in advance will not degrade the quality of the dish. Gualtiero Marchesi, Thomas Keller, and other prominent chefs parcook risotto and then refrigerate it to firm the starch. Breaking up the cooking process in this way improves both speed and coordination on the line.
It can be challenging to determine how much liquid to use when cooking risotto because absorption varies dramatically according to the variety of rice and the cooking method. A good starting point is to try using twice as much liquid as grain. Expect to experiment a bit before you find the optimal ratio for each recipe.
Estimating the final yield of risotto is easier. The “Yield after cooking” column in the table below indicates how much the grain will swell and increase in weight after full absorption of the liquid used. For example, no matter how generous you choose to be with your cooking liquid, 100 g of raw, dried amaranth will produce 190 g of drained, fully cooked amaranth.
After parcooking the risotto and finishing it on the stove top, you can dress the cooked risotto with sauce or, for less starchy grains, add a thickener to yield the traditionally creamy result. Some grains, including bomba rice, barley, and steel-cut oats, have enough natural starch to create a sauce of their own. Others are better if you finish them mantecato; that is, enrich the sauce with a dollop of butter and some cheese.
—adapted from the Plant Foods chapter in Modernist Cuisine
Additional Tips for Cooking Risotto:
- Using a pressure cooker greatly speeds up the process of making risotto. Our favorite is the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic.
- After parcooking the grains, cool them on a chilled tray. If you vacuum seal them, they will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.
- If you prefer cooking your rice sous vide, keep it in its bag, and chill it in ice water instead of chilling the parcooked rice on a cool tray.
- Some consider Risotto Milanese to be the most decadent risotto. In fact, food writer Lynne Rossetto Kasper theorized that this style of risotto was created to showcase affluence by its conspicuous golden hue and its use of an expensive rice. The addition of gold leaf a la Gaultiero Marchesi actually follows in a tradition of Northern flair.
- You can also use these parcooking techniques with bomba rice to make paella.
- When making risotto with spelt, it is necessary to soak it overnight in order to soften the husks.
- Different grains cook to different textures. For example, jasmine rice and steel-cut oats yield a much more tender result, reminiscent of a traditional Indian rice pudding.
- We love making risotto from ingredients that aren’t traditional grains, such as root vegetables cut to the size of rice grains (see Root Vegetable Risotto on page 3·309), oats (see our Sous Vide Clam and Oat Risotto recipe on page 3·308), or pine nuts (see Braised Pine Nuts with Winter Squash on page 5·65).
- Integral sauce is the starch naturally released by short-grain rice during cooking and gives risotto its inherent creaminess.
- If you are using a less starchy grain or grain substitute, you may need to add a thickener or puree to your risotto at the end.
- Mantecato refers to the classic tradition of adding butter and cheese to finish a risotto.
Additional Tips for Making Pressure-Cooked Vegetable Risotto
- Carrot juice is ubiquitous, but celery juice is a little harder to come by. We use a juicer to make ours, but you can also puree celery in a food processor, and then strain it through a fine sieve or cheesecloth.
- For a consistent color, simmer your carrot and celery juices until you see a separation float to the top (as in our Carrot Soup video). Strain the juice through a fine sieve to remove the separated elements. This will prevent the risotto from looking spotty.
- Mince your shallots to the same size as your grains of rice.
- You can also use a regular vegetable stock or chicken stock if you prefer not to make our white vegetable stock.