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14th May 2024 - Aaron Bulging
Culinary Masterclass 2 - Risotto Four Ways
Risotto-making equipment Cooking Chorizo and Beetroot risotto
The classic northern Italian dish of rice butter and cheese. Though mostly butter 🙂
Aaron leads us through an extremely educational demonstration of how a restaurant would go about producing a number of different risottos.
Four in our case.

Basically you pre-cook the rice to just a slightly extra firm risotto state, as you would for preparing a normal risotto, then you set it aside to cool.
When a customer orders a particular risotto dish, the appropriate ingredients are set going in a pan and the pre-cooked rice added mid-way through, loosened as necessary with additional hot stock, before being buttered and cheesed (the stage Italians call Mantecatura, or creaming).
Ladle onto a plate or a shallow bowl for serving, firmly smack the bottom of the plate with the palm of your hand to nicely spread the risotto, then scatter with grated cheese, drizzle with a flavoured oil, or judiciously arrange the toppings of choice, and there you are.

Of course, if you were cooking a single risotto at home you would skip the whole rice-spreading-and-cooling step, and just add your particular flavouring ingredients to the risotto as it reaches the end of the stock-simmering stage, before, with or after the butter-and-cheesing.
As you like.

The preferred consistency of the finished Italian risotto varies according to dish and to locale:
The northern regions of Piedmont and Lombardy prefer a somewhat firmer manecato (creamed) risotto, such as the classic Milanese saffron risotto zafferano or frutti di mare.
Whereas in the rice-growning areas of Piedmont and particularly the western Veneto they favour a slightly sloppier consistency that moves like a rolling wave all'onda. Though in Venice they do go so far as to practically make a soup of risi e bisi (rice 'n' peas).

The rice itself should always be cooked al dente - that is with a little bite still remaining in the centre, which should be visible as a dot of white if you crush one of the rice grains.

We cheesed our risottos exclusively with parmesan, but Aaron observes that other cheeses might be acceptable, notably gruyère or even blue cheeses. Indeed a classic Risotto ai Quattro Formaggi might be made mixing gorgonzola, pecorino or parmesan, emmental or taleggio, and gruyère or fontina.

A Risotto Rainbow
Classic Risotto
The original. The classic. The white one.
Beetroot Risotto
The pink one.
Classic Risotto with Truffled Asparagus
The green one.
Chorizo and Peas Risotto
The red and green one.

Par-Cooked Risotto Rice
main veg vegan italian
Start with about 100-150g rice per person, and expect to finish each risotto serving with half a block (125g) of butter and 50-100g cheese.
Be sure to use a decent, drinkable wine for best results.

Makes about 4 servings

Start a large pot of vegetable or other stock simmering on the side to lubricate the rice. Feel free to throw in any spare vegetable trimmings as you go.
Top, tail, peel and quarter an onion.
Discard the core.
Remove the membranes from the outer petals then dice them finely.
Other minced vegetables might be included in this soffrito depending on the dish; celery, carrot, even tomato, leeks, lemon grass, etc...
Sweat in a little oil without colouring until softened, then add half a bottle of white wine and reduce by half or more.

Add the rice, stir and cook until it starts to turn transparent and you can feel the starch beginning to stick in the bottom of the pot.
Now add a few ladlefuls of hot stock to cover the rice, then simmer until the liquid is completely absorbed, stirring often.
Repeat this process without letting the rice stick or worse, burn until the rice is soft and creamy, but still retains a little bite ("al dente"), bearing in mind that the rice will continue to cook as it cools, and again when it is used to produce individual dishes..
Spread it out on a large tray to cool.
Use as required.
Don't add any seasoning at this stage.

Classic Risotto
main veg italian
You might find that the dish needs no further seasoning when you've finished adding all the cheese. And the butter. Plus commercial stocks can be quite salty.
Give the plate several smart taps underneath to level the risotto for serving.

Serves 1

Simmer white wine and a knob of butter, and reduce by half.
Add the cooked rice base and stir to warm through. Add hot stock as required if it needs thinning.
Add the rest of the butter and beat until it dissolves and the risotto thickens and enriches.
Be careful it doesn't split.
Beat in grated parmesan so it melts through and the risotto is like lava.
Season as required and serve dressed with chives.
And a fresh grating of parmesan?

Risotto with Truffled Asparagus
main veg italian
Start by making up a portion of classic risotto as instructed above, before embelishing it for this dish.

Serves 1

Working from either side of a fat asparagus spear, use a potato peeler to cut long slices lengthways, from just beneath the tip into a bowl.
Slice off the tips, vertically halved if large, and add them to the bowl too.
Discard the first slices of the outer skin, and any difficult centre portions.
Grate the zest of a lemon into the bowl and add most of the juice, and a drizzle of truffle oil.
Mix everything together, then strain off the juices and retain them.
Depending on the age of the asparagus, do this immediately before serving or early enough to sweeten old asparagus and cure out any bitterness.
Mix the asparagus with minced parsley and chives.

Starting with a portion of the prepared, buttered and cheesed, but mostly buttered, classic risotto, stir through some chopped parsley and a few of the asparagus tips.
Decorate with the dressed asparagus, drizzle with some of the retained juice and more truffle oil to serve.
Particularly good. There is a nice contrast between the astringent lemony asparagus, and the rich creamy rice.

Beetroot Risotto
main veg italian
If you prefer you could purée the beetroot, but it is nice to have some texture in there, and the colour is less obnoxiously pink. Be sure to cook the beetroot until it's well softened though.

Serves 1

Peel and chop the beetroot into fine dice.
Sweat in a little oil Aaron used truffle oil, though I'd consider this a waste and butter until it softens and bleeds colour into the oil.
Add a ladleful of hot stock (and another knob of butter?), stir through, then add the cooked rice base.
Stir until warmed through, adding more hot stock as necessary to adjust the consistency, then add the rest of butter and beat until it is all absorbed and the risotto thickens and enriches.
Careful it doesn't split.
Incorporate the grated parmesan so the risotto becomes like lava.
Serve dressed with minced chives.
I think a swirl of horseradish cream, or a grating of bitter chocolate might be nice!
Or just a glug of un-cooked-out truffle oil 😉

Chorizo and Peas Risotto
main meat italian
Not exactly traditional, but probably less likely to stir up national hatred than putting chorizo in paella.

Serves 1

Peel and chop the chorizo into small dice.
Sweat gently without browning in a dry pan over a low heat until it renders its fat, collapses down and tastes soft and cooked.
Add a ladleful of stock and a knob of butter.
Bubble up, then add the cooked risotto rice and stir to warm through.
Beat in the rest of the butter until it is all absorbed and the risotto thickens and enriches.
Keep it moving so it does not split.
Continue beating and incorporate the grated parmesan so the risotto becomes like lava.
Mix in peas and some chopped parsley.
Serve dressed with chives.
Very good.
Frozen peas are ideal, otherwise if you want to use fresh ones you'd probably better blanch them first.