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Italian Delicacie: Risotto



I remember watching a reality show in UK, where a group of five people would invite each other for dinner and the cook would be given points on presentation, difficulty level of food prepared, ambience and a lot more. Why I am telling such a long story is because in one of the episodes, a lady tried to make a risotto and I remember the narrator describing how difficult it is to perfect the art of making this Italian dish. Whether that lady won the contest or not that is a different issue, but I sure was intrigued into this rich and creamy rice dish.

If it's called risotto, it must begin with the rice. Traditionally, Carnaroli or Arborio rice is used. Short and plump, they are high in starch and able to absorb quite a bit of liquid without becoming mushy, giving risotto its characteristic creaminess and slightly clingy. In fact any small, starchy grain, be it rice, pearl barley, spelt, or farro--even orzo pasta--can be cooked risotto-style for delicious results. Remember Risotto cannot be made form long grain or minute rice; it will neither give the texture nor flavor.

Stock is important to Risotto as it forms the base of flavor. So always heat it up. No matter what stock you are using you’ll end up using thrice as much. On a flame just to simmer the stock, adding it ladle by ladle and only adding more when the first one is absorbed--for that restaurant type taste. Stir, stir and stir.

Homemade chicken stock, beef, vegetable, or seafood, use any as long as it adds good flavor and matches the ingredients you're putting in the risotto. Just be careful with canned stock for the salt it may leave. A heavy bottom cast iron pan is best when cooking this dish. Saute onions, add rice, toast it up till it turns translucent at the edges. If using wine, add it now. Keep other necessary ingredients between the stirring bouts. You’ll know it is done when it just al dente, it should not be crunchy but just as firm—now add a pat of butter pat that extra richness

No matter what cookbooks say, it is not forget-on-the-stove kinds, taking well over thirty minutes to make this dish, stirring continuously at a pace. After all a great Risotto is all about technique and once you master the art, you can experiment with vegetables like asparagus, English peas, zucchini. Even simple ones with Parmesan cheese and basic marinara sauce are equally satisfying.

So, now you have a fair idea of what goes into it.  If you are kind of on a diet then you better stay away, but Italian dishes are best known for their richness, so once in a while you can do away with your diet thing and divulge your senses in the true flavor of cheese, rice, wine and other dozen renditions.

Don't stop just there -- risotto makes a succulent dessert, too. Made with hot milk, sugar and your choice of spices, swirl in some dark chocolate and sprinkle those toasted almonds for a simple indulgence. Or for a touch of elegance, try risotto pudding topped with wine-poached fruit such as fresh figs, apples or pears.

Here is a quick Mushroom Risotto recipe.

Buon appetito always!








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