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Thread: Risotto: to stir or not to stir?

  1. #1
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    Question Risotto: to stir or not to stir?

    When I first started cooking risotto, I would stir the dish constantly. Now, I add the 1/2 c liquid, stir for a bit, chop or prep something, stir for a bit more, etc. It seems to come out the same and I can prep and cook at the same time. Does anyone else "cheat:" this way? Am I fundamentally damaging my risotto?

  2. #2
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    I never, ever stir constantly, and I think my risotto is better than any other I've ever tasted -- even in Italy (a bit cocky, am I? )
    It really is not necessary to stir the entire time, and I even think it comes out better if you don't, allowing the grains to absorb the liquid without constant interference. Here's an excerpt from The Complete Italian Vegetarian, written by Jack Bishop, who garnered most of his Italian cooking knowledge from his Italian grandmother and his travels through Italy. He's a senior editor for Cook's Illustrated, as well.

    I know many cooks avoid risotto, though I'm not sure why. Some may not realize that the dish transforms rice into an appealing main course, either with or without meat. Others may have been discouraged by instructions that the rice must be stirred constantly for half an hour or more. This is too bad, since this admonition is completely unfounded.
    While frequent stirring is necessary to produce the characteristic creaminess of a good risotto, constant stirring is not. When I make risotto, I walk over to the pot every minute or two and stir the rice for about 10 seconds with a large wooden spoon or flat spatula. The dish does require attention, but it is not an all-consuming culinary job. Between stirs, you can mince an herb, grate some cheese or even make a salad.


    Does this help any?

    [This message has been edited by emilycat (edited 05-30-2001).]

  3. #3
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    I've never been a constant stirrer either! I do find it intriguing to see different chef's 'tried and true' ways for cooking risotto however. I've always added the simmering liquid about a ladleful at a time, stirred for 10 seconds or so, then walked away for a few minutes. Always turned out fine! Then I watch Chef Emeril, who dumps in the entire amount of broth, whether it be 3 or 4 cups, and then says 'stir for exactly 18 minutes'. Constant stirring, and all the broth has to absorb at once. When he makes it on his show he has to pluck a 'Sous Chef' out of the audience to be his stirrer! I think he makes more work out of it that way, personally! (He also has changed his instructions this season to 'stir for exactly 21 minutes!)

    I think that the stirring helps produce a creamier product because you're helping release and distribute the starch, but I also agree that too much stirring would do nothing but break the grains down and interfere with the natural absorbtion!

  4. #4
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    Thanks Emilycat...as a not-quite-successful Risotto maker in the past myself, it's nice to hear how the "Queen" does it.

    I've found that my risottos have improved over the past couple of months (don't know if it's my technique changing or my taste though!) I've never had the patience to stir all that time.

    Two comments...I made the Risi e Bisi last week (CL May 2000) it used the same rice used in risotto and stock with wine, but you dumped in all the liquid at the beginning and simmered and stirred "occasionally" for 20 minutes...it came out very "risotto-y". Finally, I've heard that a pressure cooker makes fast work out of risotto...I don't have one (yet)...anyone out there have one and what's your opinion?

    Lilia


  5. #5
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    Personally, I think a pressure cooker would take all the fun out of it! There's something very soothing to me about the risotto process, and I like creating it. I would also be afraid of not being able to see what's going on inside that thing while it's cooking! I like keeping an eye on it while it's doing its thing!

  6. #6
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    Talking

    I've never been a constant stirrer either! I do find it intriguing to see different chef's 'tried and true' ways for cooking risotto however. I've always added the simmering liquid about a ladleful at a time, stirred for 10 seconds or so, then walked away for a few minutes. Always turned out fine!

    I come from the same school of thought, and anyone who tries my risotto's, they love them. (sorry, can't get the grammar to work properly). I usually add 2 laddles full of broth, stir a bit, then stir a bit before I add then next laddles full of broth.

    Sometimes I think, people put way too much thought and work into cooking. One of the reasons it seems that we all enjoy cooking, is that we don't take it that seriously. Or maybe it's just me.

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