I learned about risotto from a man (let’s call him Lucky) who
once drove into a house. One of those big, old New England homes with no front yard, built right on the street. (Which is why it bears
blame, at least if you ask Lucky.)
At the time, Lucky was a talented sous chef at a highly regarded
fine dining restaurant, and known among cooks in the area as something of a
risotto master. But like some professional cooks, he also had a knack for
It was a late-night collision. He lost control of his car and
plowed into the front porch, which helped soften the blow to the living room. Nobody
was seriously hurt. The house was unoccupied, and Lucky walked (or more likely dashed)
away from the wreck. Thanks to the four-door piece of evidence he left at the
scene, local police soon tracked him down. I don’t recall the upshot, though I
think he may have been relieved of his license for a little while.
Still, the incident will never tarnish Lucky’s professional reputation.
Personally, I won’t spend a night on the town with him, but I’ll gladly eat his
risotto any time.
Risotto, Lucky’s Way:
No recipe here, just a few valuable tips gleaned from a pro.
I can’t promise you’ll become a disciple to the method, but I can tell you
these things make a difference…
- First, soften your
onions beyond tender, to the point where they have no bite left. To do this
without browning them requires the lowest heat and occasional stirring for 20
minutes or so. Adding some salt at the start will help keep them from
caramelizing. In the end, the onions will practically dissolve into the risotto
starch, making the flavor more complex and satisfying.
- Try Carnaroli rice.
Preferable to Arborio in various ways, Carnaroli cooks more evenly and produces
a creamier risotto. It also cooks faster and absorbs more liquid, so if you’re
cooking from a recipe that calls for Arborio, you may want to have a little
extra cooking liquid on hand. Carnaroli is more expensive, but if risotto is
important to you, it’s worth every penny.
- Beat that rice like
it owes you money. Some cooks give the rice a lazy occasional stir, just
enough to keep it from sticking to the bottom. You need more friction. Constant,
vigorous stirring rubs the grains against each other and gives off the starch
that creates risotto’s prized creaminess. Consider it your premeal workout, and
a justification for a dollop of…
- Truffle butter or
marscapone to finish. If your diet
allows for it, stirring in a touch of either (or yes, even both) of these
ingredients just before serving makes the dish absolutely irresistible.
Indulgent? Perhaps. Reckless? Hardly. It’s not like you’re driving into a house