GENERAL RISOTTO COOKING RULES
1. Risotto is best when made with rice that has a high level of amylopectin starch, such as U.S. arborio or medium grain rice. The starch in these grains absorbs flavors easily and takes on a creamy texture when cooked properly.
2. Choose a heavy pan with a thick bottom and sides to help distribute heat evenly. Make sure it is large enough to hold the cooked rice (rice will expand to about three times its original size).
3. Rice used in risotto should never be rinsed. Rinsing removes starch, which is what gives risotto its wonderful creamy consistency.
4. Sautéing rice in butter or oil creates a shell around each grain, allowing the grain to slowly absorb moisture. This will result in creamy risotto, where each grain maintains its own shape.
5. If you plan to add wine to your risotto, do so before adding the broth. This helps burn off the alcohol, leaving only the wine’s more subtle flavor. A simple, dry wine works best.
6. For best results use homemade broth. During cooking, the broth will reduce, intensifying its flavors and those of any added seasonings, especially salt. Canned broth flavor can be improved by simmering 30 minutes with onion, celery, carrot, parsley, and garlic. Strain before adding to risotto.
7. Broth should be at a simmer when adding to the rice. Hot broth keeps the temperature at a more constant level, ensuring even, continuous cooking and serves as the melding agent, releasing the rice’s starch and making it creamy.
8. Broth should be added one cup at a time, allowing time for the broth to be fully absorbed before adding more. It’s the gradual addition of broth and slow cooking that helps produce the creamy result unique to risotto.
9. Risotto should continue to simmer during cooking. Adjust heat if necessary. If heat is too high or too low, the broth will either evaporate or will not be absorbed by the rice.
10. Risotto should be stirred often. Stirring keeps the grains in contact with the liquid for even cooking, prevents the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan, and dislodges surface starch from the rice into the liquid, causing it to thicken.
11. Quick-cooking additions such as shrimp or zucchini should be added at the end.
12. Risotto is done when the rice is al dente – creamy, yet firm in the center. Never let rice dry out when making risotto. For a creamy texture, the rice should always – from start to finish – be kept under a “veil” of broth.
USA Rice Federation www.usarice.com