Sunday, March 1, 2009

Identity Theft - Pilaf Posing as Risotto

I am sure that my BakeSpace buddies have seen parts of this before, since I wrote something very similar on one of the recipes I posted...
I love Risotto; Even the process of making it is relaxing.

I have seen many, many recipes claiming that you can make "fantastic" risotti (plural) with any long grain rice, Converted rice, and even Minute Rice of all things. I wonder if these people have ever had real risotto. They just don't know what they are missing. You can make a pretty good Pilaf with minute rice, but not a risotto.

You have at least six choices but three are the most common:

Vialone Nano

The first two are much easier to find than the third, unless you have an Italian Market near by. There are, also, Baldo, Roma and Padano, but I have never seen them at the market. These types of rice are very special.

"Why", you ask? Because they contain the 'Golden Ratio' of the two starches found in rice.

Amylose & Amylopectin.

Rice that is high in Amylose, a long straight starch molecule that does not gelatinize during cooking and crystallizes when cold, creates fluffy rice such as Basmati, Jasmine & Cal-Rose.

Rice high in Amylopectin, a multi-branched molecule that becomes sticky when released during cooking, results in a very sticky rice such as Sushi rice that is moldable and able to hold it's shape.

Somewhere in between these two extremes is the perfect balance of amylose and amylopectin that creates a medium-firm textured rice combined with an unparalleled creaminess that cannot be duplicated by any long grain or sushi rice. As stated before, Long grain rice creates sort of an overcooked "pilaf" where short grained sushi rice has a tendency to seize up when being used for risotto.

You must stir to force the grains to rub against each other, releasing the amylopectin into the broth and thus creating the silky mouth feel that good risotto is known for. That is, unless you are using Vialone Nano, which can be stirred only occasionally. Please use wooden or silicon/plastic utensils, as metal ones tend to abrade the rice grains a little too much and can damage them.

Finally, never add chilled wine or cold stock to your risotto during the cooking process. Heat your broth on a separate burner and have your wine at least at room temperature. If you add cold wine after the sauté (which is more of a sofritto), you will shock the rice, if you add cold or luke-warm broth during the remainder of the cooking process, you will start a cycle of cooling & reheating as the cold liquid comes back up to a boil. This is not good for the rice and makes it gummy and double the cooking time. Which is about 18 minutes, from the addition of the wine... You cannot shorten it to 10 minute or cook it longer than 20 minutes. That is simply how long it takes...

I usually serve risotto as a small side for 4 -6 people. Risotto is very rich and a little goes along way. But it can be used as a main dish.

Oh, one last thing. If a risotto has cream added to finish it off, then it is no longer a risotto, but a mantecato.

I performed a little experiment today to prove a point. No, this post will not actually contain a recipe per se.
Using 1/2 cup of rice and about 2 cups of stock, and 1/2 shallot; minced... I attempted to make risotto with both arborio as well as long grain rice to show the different in the end product.

Let us begin,
This is long grain rice:

This is Arborio:

They look very different, thin and long vs short and slightly rounded.

After the saute and the toasting of the rice, long grain looks like well, long grain rice.

While the Arborio now has a somewhat translucent look with a white center or "eye" (the translucent part is the amylopectin)

Once the wine and stock are added, you will notice, with stirring, that the Arborio begins to create sort of a creamy sauce,

While the long grain doesn't really do a whole lot of anything, except maybe change color.

Here is the finished products --

Long grain - Clumpy overdone and slightly gummy

Arborio (Medium grain) - Silky smooth, but still slightly toothy (al dente - yes, this term is used for risotto as well) and "Wavy" or "all'onda" as it is known in Venice... Delicious

Now Go forth and create delicious risotto!!



Michele said...

Your risotto looks delicious. All you used was stock? What a great color you got. What brand of stock do you use or do you make your own?

Culinary Alchemist said...

Michele - Thanks :) This time I used some Trader Joe's Organic Free Range Chicken Stock. When I make my white truffle risotto later this week, I will probably use the homemade turkey stock in my freezer, cause turkey has a little more "depth" of flavor than chicken.

Bob said...

Nice, risotto rules. I've never heard anyone say you could make it with Minute Rice before. Or maybe I did and I just blocked it out because it's such a shocking thing to say...

Spryte said...

Ya know, I think I'm not really a risotto fan. But if I was going to eat anyone's risotto, it would definitely be yours!

Culinary Alchemist said...

Bob - I know, I was completely shocked when I saw that...

Spryte - Thank you... :)

Anonymous said...

Shane, have you ever thought of teaching a cooking class? You sure have taught me a lot since getting to know you. My husband will be so happy when I fire up the risotto!
Patti T/BakeSpace