Mastering the creamy decadence of this grain-based dish is easy with a few simple techniques.
November 20, 2009
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Making risotto involves the slow addition of liquid and frequent stirring to coax the starch from the rice. This creates a luscious sauce that envelops the grain and carries the flavor. Risottos are classically made with medium-grain Arborio rice, but many other grains yield terrific results. Barley, steel-cut oats, quinoa, and bulgur benefit greatly from this cooking method. Like Arborio rice, these grains contain lots of easily released starch that provides characteristic creaminess. No amount of stirring, however, will bring creaminess to grains that lack starch, such as basmati rice.
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Step 1: Sauté Aromatics
To get started, bring your cooking liquid to a boil in preparation for step 3 (add wine and cooking liquid). You’ll eventually add the liquid to your grain and want it warm because cold ingredients slow the release of starch. In the meantime, sauté aromatic vegetables like onion, garlic, and shallots in oil or butter to provide a taste foundation on which to build the risotto.
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Step 2: Add grain
Sautéing the grain infuses it with flavors from the vegetables and helps the risotto reach a boil faster when the liquid is added.
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Step 3: Add Wine and Cooking Liquid
Add wine first to allow the alcohol to cook out. Stir the rice as you add the wine to help coax the starch out of the grain. Slowly add hot cooking liquid. Allow only a veil of liquid to cover the grain. Stir constantly until liquid is absorbed.
Tip: We recommend using low-sodium store-bought broth, which will add flavor without making the dish too salty. See our favorites.
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Step 4: Add Accents
Add the remaining ingredients, such as meat, fish, vegetables, or cheese during the last few minutes of cooking time to keep them intact.
Try it! Practice this technique with the following 6 recipes:
For other classic how-to instructions, check out the Cooking Light Way to Cook, which offers easy step-by-step guides to basic cooking techniques. Our most beautiful book yet, it makes a great gift or a useful addition to your own collection.