Risotto: The King of Rice

Andy Mueller

andy mueller | in the kitchen with chef andy | april 2018

Hans Westbeek photo.I've often alluded to the fact that when it comes to rice, anyone can make it, but when it comes to risotto, few can create it. Making rice is like a math problem: There is a definitive answer if you follow the formula correctly. Risotto, on the other hand, is more like art. It is a feeling, a perception and a labor of love. But when it is properly created, it can be nothing short of a masterpiece.

By definition, risotto is a type of rice when it starts out. It is a medium grain Arborio variety that starts out like its cousins, but ends up the king of the castle when it's all decked out. Ideally, risotto has a creamy halo around every grain that envelopes an al dente center difficult to distinguish between firm and soft. A bit vague, I realize, but so is the true definition of risotto.

Think of the best pasta you've ever had. Probably a nice balance between firm to the tooth yet tender to the bite. The same rings true with risotto as it is somewhere between firm and soft, creamy and fluffy. It should feel like little beads of velvet on the tongue with its body acting like a sponge absorbing whatever liquid medium you've introduced throughout the cooking process.

Properly made risotto gets a quick sear to achieve a nutty profile, then slowly absorbs liquid as you introduce it in small batches while it cooks under a watchful eye. The key moment is knowing when to stop adding cooking liquid as to keep the grains al dente, then folding in a little cream and perhaps some cheese to elevate is flavor to extreme levels of pleasure on the palate. This is a great dish to practice your cooking prowess. Consider yourself one giant step closer to becoming a pro the moment you pull off a perfect risotto!

Risotto Romano

In a large skillet over medium high heat add:

2 tablespoons olive oil

When oil is hot but not yet smoking add to the pan:

1 medium onion, finely diced

Stir quickly for one minute then add:

1 lb. Arborio rice

Stir with a wooden spoon for several minutes allowing the rice to get lightly brown but do not let it burn. The rice will become almost chalky looking and show a white dot in the center of the grain. At this time add:

1 cup dry white wine

Let the rice absorb the wine as you stir, then add:

2 cloves minced fresh garlic

At this time start adding in batches:

6 - 8 cups chicken stock

Add the chicken stock to the rice, 1 cup at a time, and continue to stir. Allow the rice to absorb each cup of stock before adding the next cup of stock. After 10 minutes, start to test the grains by tasting them. They will be crunchy at first. As soon as they are firm, not crunchy, but not soft, stop adding stock and remove from heat. Fold into the rice:

1/2 pint heavy cream

1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

a pinch of salt

a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper

It should be a bit creamy but not soupy. If it is a bit dry, add a little stock to thin it out.

Serve with grilled chicken or fish. Top with fresh grated Romano cheese and chopped fresh parsley for garnish. Enjoy!

Chef Andy Mueller is a well-seasoned Chef with over 30 years in the restaurant business. He's been on Food Network with Guy Fieri, was Reggie White's personal chef during their Super Bowl run in 1996 and has been Executive Chef at Zimani's in the late '80s, the original Executive Chef at Black & Tan Grille the first four years of operation and owned restaurants in Door County including Glidden Lodge restaurant north of Sturgeon Bay and Hillside Restaurant in Ellison Bay. He currently owns the massively popular supper club 'Galley 57' in Allouez at 2222 Riverside Dr.

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