Apr 6, 2011


Those who've cooked or eaten risotto will know that the best tasting risotto is made and eaten fresh, otherwise it is just an unyielding lump of starch and protein. So for this post, I thought I’d focus on the journey of making the risotto which, I believe, is one of the more scenic ones.

The initial challenge was to figure out the risotto flavoring. Being vegetarian, it was easy to go with wild mushroom and dry wine but that sounded drab so I decided to color it up a bit and opted for black asian fungus and red wine/ sherry cooking wine reduction instead.

I sautéed some red onion, garlic, black fungus and red walnuts in olive oil and a small scoop of butter. I waited till the onions were nicely caramelized and the house was alive with a warm onion-garlic-butter smell. Then I added in the risotto rice and tossed it around till the rice toasted to a golden yellow (not brown!) and emitted a nice nutty odor.

Quick aside - cooking risotto is one of the most rewarding experiences since it is cooked in distinctive stages and each stage contributes a unique flavor, smell and texture, not to mention taste. The onions and garlic warming in butter give way to the toasty smell of risotto rice which in turn yields to the acidic smell of wine and finally the sharp smell of parmesan cheese sets in as the risotto swirls around. And I keep scooping the risotto with my finger to sample the taste - it just tastes better off the finger than the spoon - mmmmmmm

Ah! Back to reality... I started adding the vegetable stock to cook the rice. Now purists may add stock and wine in equal alternate measures but I say do what your heart tells you. If you want a harder hitting risotto, go for some additional wine, maybe a few drops of balsamic vinegar or even soy sauce - you are the artist...

Anyhow, I kept adding the vegetable stock till the rice was half cooked and then introduced my wine and sherry reduction. If I were to put a ballpark estimate to the total liquid proportion, I’d say it was 3 parts stock and 1 part wine/sherry. The key is to keep stirring the risotto so the rice is fully agitated, releases starch and takes on a creamy texture. Also, it is important to add the stock/ wine of your choice cup by cup (adding the next cup only once the previous cup has been absorbed) so that the rice doesn’t just cook but releases starch.

After the rice was fully cooked, I turned off the heat and added parmesan cheese (although would have preferred goat cheese if I had some). I’ve learned from a disastrous experience before, that cheese and heat make for strange bedfellows. Also, I find it helpful to add salt and pepper after the cheese has been incorporated so that saltiness from all the different ingredients is accounted for. Since risotto is a complete dish, it can tend to get monotonous. To help the palate break the the monotony of flavor, I added some fresh grapes to act as a freshener between bites. The toasted walnuts also added a wonderful crunch texture to the risotto to keep it alive. All in all, a scenic journey with all the sights, sounds and smells and a rainbow at the end.

By the way, I also realized that cooking can also improve spelling. Rissotto, Rissoto, Risotto - ha ha ha - you get the drift. If there was a spelling bee specializing in cooking, r-i-s-o-t-t-o would definitely be on that list.

1 comment:

Pragya Tiwari said...

The photograph and description are so appetizing :) I feel like having some r-i-s-o-t-t-o :)