The legend of the invention of Risotto is said to go back to the year 1574. The Duomo di Milano, the magnificent Gothic cathedral, was being built, and a young apprentice named Valerius was in charge of staining the decorated glass for the windows. Everybody was teasing him because he appeared to have added saffron to the pigments to obtain a more brilliant color.
Tired of the teasing, he decided to return the joke and added saffron to the rice to be served at his master’s wedding. The rice turned out so good that the idea spread immediately throughout the city and became the popular dish we know today.
There are so many recipes that proclaim that their risotto recipe is the best and it should be cooked that way and this way, use this rice or “make sure it isn’t too creamy”…on and on. Certainly I can proclamim my risotto to be the best as well, and you will find it to be among the best I assure you. But let’s take a minute and look at the FACTS of risotto.
Arborio rice is a short grained rice that doesn’t undergo as much milling as other types of rice, thereby giving it more natural starch content. This is important because while making risotto, you want this starch to be released, creating a very creamy texture. Long grained rice ultimately turns mushy and is not even close to being creamy, as Risotto should be.
If you don’t have Arborio, any short-medium grained rice is more than adequate, and I doubt if anyone will ever be able to tell the difference. If you can, than you aren’t cooking the Risotto properly and it has nothing to do with the rice.
A pound of rice soaks up about 6 cups of liquid and many chefs adhere to the same rule of thumb for cooking Risotto as they do pasta, al dente. Although I generally don’t care for my pasta to be al dente, or my rice for that matter, I don stick to that rule when it comes to risotto.
Also, you may see many professional chefs on television, in print or elsewhere judging different Risotto recipes. I have to laugh because I saw one particularly well-known chef describing another chef’s Risotto as TOO creamy. You obviously could tell that this Risotto dish was moving every time he moved the plate. I took particular umbrage to this statement and although I admire all chefs on television and respect their abilities, they sometimes lose sight of the original intention and presentation of certain dishes, Risotto being one of them.
Risotto should be prepared all’onda, which is Italian for “with the waves”, or simply “wavy”. It should flow every time you move the dish although not have a watery “rim” around the edge of the dish. Although that certain chef may not have cared for the risotto, in his own taste, it was made perfectly and that should be what these chefs are judged on, not individual tastes. If that were the case, no-one would ever win.
Risotto remains the most important staple dish for many people in all Northern Italy, and especially in Milan. Threads of saffron are classically added to risotto but with the cost of saffron, it is not that essential unless you choose to add it.
New England Risotto with Caramelized Onion and Bean’s Chorizo
Add a Quenelle of Pumpkin(zucca gialla) on top of each serving to give it that Yankee touch. Or simply plop on a dollop. Directions below.
5 c. chicken broth
3 T. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped onion
2 T. granulated sugar
1/4 lb. thinly sliced Bean’s Chorizo
2 c. Arborrio rice, or any other short-medium grained rice
1 c. white wine
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Add chicken stock to a large pot and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat; set aside. In a skillet, over medium-high heat, add 2 T. butter, garlic and onion. Saute until just done, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and continue cooking until sugar has dissolved and becomes a thick syrup. Add the Chorizo and continue cooking about 2 minutes or until sausage is warmed through. Add rice and stir for 2 minutes, making sure rice is evenly coated with glaze.
Add wine to rice, stirring regularly. When wine is completely absorbed by the rice, add a cup of the hot stock. Continue to add stock, 1 cup at a time once the previous cup is absorbed by the rice. Stir rice continually. After 18 minutes, remove the rice from the heat and add the Parmesan cheese and 1 T. of butter, stirring until melted. Stir in cream until mixed well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
1 c. pure pumpkin
1/2 t. cracked black pepper, if desired
Simply heat in the microwave and spoon a quenelle or two on top of each serving of Risotto.