There’s a lot of myths surrounding risotto and the most persistent, which I am as guilty of perpetuating as anyone, is the need to stir continuously to help gradually rub off the starch contained within the grains of rice. An article I recently read on Serious Eats put this to the test and found that it just isn’t true: pretty much all the starch adheres to the outside of the rice from the outset. In one of the experiments, when the rice was rinsed thoroughly beforehand no amount of stirring during cooking resulted in any more starch being liberated from the grain; the only benefit was it ensured even cooking.
I then found a post on Ideas In Food that contained yet more risotto heresies: this time pre-soaking the rice in water for around two hours (I’ve also tried twelve, i.e., whilst I was at work, but the rice’s final texture wasn’t right) before boiling in stock over a high heat for six to seven minutes with none of the usual slow additions of liquid and only the occasional stir. Bearing in mind the Serious Eats experiments I thought it would make much more sense to skip the water altogether and just soak in stock right from the start, that way I could be sure no starch had been lost.
I was quite surprised by how good the end product was and I’d love to do a proper triangle test to see if there is a discernible difference between this and the traditional preparation because it seems minimal to me. The only issue I encountered was on my first attempt – the consistency was not loose enough because I didn’t have enough stock for the proper 3:1 ratio recommended by the Ideas In Food recipe; once this was rectified the results seemed indistinguishable from the real thing. The main benefit I can think of here is when you are cooking for a group: if you’ve everything ready beforehand you can have the dish finished ten minutes after the last person arrives with minimum fuss.
One area where I did stick with tradition though was not adding cheese during the mantecato even though the Italian no parmesan with seafood rule is largely nonsense; I decided against it because I wanted to make sure the delicate flavour of the crab didn’t get lost although I did up the umami with a few splashes of fish sauce.
400g carnaroli rice
1.2l fish stock
2 cobs of corn, husk removed
150ml white wine
100g shallots, finely chopped
5ml fish sauce
200g cooked crab meat
- Soak the rice in the fish stock for two hours in the fridge.
- Meanwhile, cut the kernels from the corn by using a knife to slice them off from the top of the cob down.
- Melt 10g of butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and gently cook all but 30g of the corn for 5 minutes.
- Add the white wine, saffron and 200ml of the fish stock (from the pre-soaked rice) and simmer for a few minutes.
- Pour the contents of the pan into a blender and purée until smooth. Reserve.
- Melt another 10g of butter into a saucepan over a medium heat.
- Add the shallots and cook until softened and translucent, around 5 minutes.
- Pour in the rice, stock, fish sauce and corn purée and bring to the boil.
- Cook on a high heat for 6-7 minutes and stir occasionally to ensure even cooking
- When the rice is tender but still al dente, take off the heat and stir in the crab meat and the rest of the butter.
- Adjust the seasoning if necessary before covering and leaving to rest for 3-4 minutes.
- While the risotto is resting, fry the remaining 30g of corn over a very high heat in some oil until browned.
- Divide the rice between four plates, sprinkle over the corn and serve immediately.