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Risotto: A Crash Course

I learned about risotto from a man (let’s call him Lucky) who once drove into a house. At the time, Lucky was a talented sous chef at a highly regarded fine dining restaurant, and known among cooks in the area as something of a risotto master.

I learned about risotto from a man (let’s call him Lucky) who once drove into a house. One of those big, old New England homes with no front yard, built right on the street. (Which is why it bears blame, at least if you ask Lucky.)

At the time, Lucky was a talented sous chef at a highly regarded fine dining restaurant, and known among cooks in the area as something of a risotto master. But like some professional cooks, he also had a knack for trouble.

It was a late-night collision. He lost control of his car and plowed into the front porch, which helped soften the blow to the living room. Nobody was seriously hurt. The house was unoccupied, and Lucky walked (or more likely dashed) away from the wreck. Thanks to the four-door piece of evidence he left at the scene, local police soon tracked him down. I don’t recall the upshot, though I think he may have been relieved of his license for a little while.

 

Still, the incident will never tarnish Lucky’s professional reputation. Personally, I won’t spend a night on the town with him, but I’ll gladly eat his risotto any time.

Risotto, Lucky’s Way:

No recipe here, just a few valuable tips gleaned from a pro. I can’t promise you’ll become a disciple to the method, but I can tell you these things make a difference...

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  • First, soften your onions beyond tender, to the point where they have no bite left. To do this without browning them requires the lowest heat and occasional stirring for 20 minutes or so. Adding some salt at the start will help keep them from caramelizing. In the end, the onions will practically dissolve into the risotto starch, making the flavor more complex and satisfying.
  • Try Carnaroli rice. Preferable to Arborio in various ways, Carnaroli cooks more evenly and produces a creamier risotto. It also cooks faster and absorbs more liquid, so if you’re cooking from a recipe that calls for Arborio, you may want to have a little extra cooking liquid on hand. Carnaroli is more expensive, but if risotto is important to you, it’s worth every penny.

     

  • Beat that rice like it owes you money. Some cooks give the rice a lazy occasional stir, just enough to keep it from sticking to the bottom. You need more friction. Constant, vigorous stirring rubs the grains against each other and gives off the starch that creates risotto’s prized creaminess. Consider it your premeal workout, and a justification for a dollop of…
  • Truffle butter or marscapone to finish.  If your diet allows for it, stirring in a touch of either (or yes, even both) of these ingredients just before serving makes the dish absolutely irresistible. Indulgent? Perhaps. Reckless? Hardly. It’s not like you’re driving into a house or something.