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Perfect Risotto
March 8, 2011 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Engineering the perfect risotto.

Bonus:
6 minute risotto from Ideas in Food
Parametric risotto recipe from Modernist Cuisine
posted by AceRock (62 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
second link comes back: "We're sorry, but the page cannot be accessed." (from USA)
posted by facetious at 7:44 AM on March 8, 2011


I have to admit -- I don't "stir constantly" when I make risotto. I stir frequently, but not constantly, because stirring constantly is infuriatingly boring, and I've got other things that need doing.

I'm sure my risotto doesn't quite measure up to the Platonian Ideal as a result, but it's still pretty damn good, so I'm happy.

....My point is: articles like this are fine for the experts, but I suspect they put people off trying to cook from scratch themselves, because they think "wow, it's that much work? Screw it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:44 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perfect risotto is a beautiful thing.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:45 AM on March 8, 2011


Overthinking a plate of beans bowl of rice.
posted by briank at 7:48 AM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


I once destroyed my credibility in the eyes of an employer by making the worst risotto imaginable. Where were you then, MetaFilter??
posted by hermitosis at 7:48 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


The second link again if it is borked in the FPP: http://blog.ideasinfood.com/ideas_in_food/2010/12/6-minute-risotto.html
posted by AceRock at 7:53 AM on March 8, 2011


Don't forget microwave risotto!
posted by TedW at 7:55 AM on March 8, 2011


I make perfectly good risotto. It needs bacon.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:56 AM on March 8, 2011


...because stirring constantly is infuriatingly boring, and I've got other things that need doing.

We just had a guest over who prides himself on his risotto. His secret was indeed that he was stirring constantly for hours. It was like a meditation thing for him.

Incredible risotto! Creamy but with texture. Some of the best I have ever had.
posted by vacapinta at 7:57 AM on March 8, 2011


Risotto is one of those dishes that I make occasionally, but which I started making for myself before I'd had it made by anybody else. So my own version is the one that I compare all others to.

I imagine this is as bad an idea as, e.g., trying to teach yourself to play guitar — you get cemented into all sorts of bad habits. I like how I make mine. I have no idea whether it's any good or not.
posted by penduluum at 7:59 AM on March 8, 2011


Why hasn't someone invented a robot to do this stirring for me?
posted by melissam at 8:00 AM on March 8, 2011


i made a mistake - i mean the third link - to "Parametric risotto" - this is still coming back with the same error - apologies for the mistake -
posted by facetious at 8:00 AM on March 8, 2011


Mario Batali says you don't need to constantly stir, and if half assing it is good enough for him, it's good enough for me. And if your rice says "THE ULTIMATE RICE" on the label, it probably isn't.

This kind of thing sucks the joy out of cooking for me. For example, the bone marrow comes from shanks which is wasteful and definitely not one of the main principles of Italian cooking, cucina povereta,or making do with what you have. At the bare minimum source marrow bones that have the meat removed so that you are not going to waste it. I suspect that dog had the most satisfying meal in the house that night.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:00 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Risotto is one of those dishes that come with a bloody reputation for being horrifically difficult and liable to blow-up in your face if you just look at it sideways. Making a roux comes with the same reputation. In both cases, that reputation falls apart quickly once you just try it a couple of times. Then you wonder why anyone is afraid of these things.

And, yeah, I'm good with not constantly stirring, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:04 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


To get to the parametric risotto page I think you need to start with the forum page and then go to February 21.

Once I read Barbara Kafka's recipe for microwave risotto I never went back. It eliminates the need for all that stirring. You don't need her recipe, just do any normal recipe in the microwave. Stir every five minutes or so, less at first.
posted by caddis at 8:06 AM on March 8, 2011


For example, the bone marrow comes from shanks which is wasteful and definitely not one of the main principles of Italian cooking, cucina povereta,or making do with what you have.

Why are you assuming he didn't make something else from those shanks? I sure would.
posted by creasy boy at 8:09 AM on March 8, 2011


Try this one for the parametric recipe: http://i.imgur.com/Jhq0Q.jpg
posted by AceRock at 8:10 AM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Every time I think of risotto I picture Gordon Ramsey:

   Oh, come on! It's burnt! You donkey! *throws plate down dramatically, kicks trash can*
posted by Rhomboid at 8:14 AM on March 8, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I'd use the shanks for the beef broth and give the chuck a pass. Scoop and save the marrow, and toss the shanks into the stockpot...
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:15 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sure my risotto doesn't quite measure up to the Platonian Ideal...

To be fair, it's a lot easier to cook risotto in a perfect vacuum at nearly 3 degrees above absolute zero.
posted by DU at 8:17 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why hasn't someone invented a robot to do this stirring for me?

RoboStir.
posted by Fizz at 8:22 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mario Batali says you don't need to constantly stir, and if half assing it is good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

Indeed, here is an article from Mark Bittman with a recipe for asparagus risotto that incorporates Batali's laid-back approach to stirring. There is also a video of Bittman and Batali making the risotto. I have made the recipe and it is delicious.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 8:22 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Outdoor Risotto.
I've wanted an excuse to post that for years. It's a re-post from, I think, 2006.
posted by notsnot at 8:29 AM on March 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't stir it constantly, either. And I've made it in the pressure cooker with great results.

Problem, traditionalists?
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:41 AM on March 8, 2011


That robostir looks pretty awesome...but how did they overcome the law of conservation of angular momentum?
posted by DU at 8:41 AM on March 8, 2011


I admit that the word "engineering" had me hoping for some kind of scientific application of the ingredients and techniques, rather than some random blogger's personal recipe.
posted by Revvy at 8:45 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Rhomboid: Every time I think of risotto I picture Gordon Ramsey.

[V.O.: It's thirty comments into the FPP, and the users are getting restless.]

hermitosis: Is this... it?
valkryn: I can't really get into an argument about another cat video...

[V.O.: Inside the Blue, tensions are flaring, and cortex has had enough.]

cortex: THE BEANS, MADAM! THE PLATE OF BEANS!

[He shoves Jessamyn off of her desk chair and scrolls down with disgust.]


cortex: Oh, come ON! What do you call this? It's NOISE, madam! NOISE! GAAAAAAH!

[He slams the keyboard against the desk and stalks off to get some string cheese from the kitchen.]

cortex: Un-be-LIEV-able!
posted by Madamina at 8:47 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmm, I thought Robostir was going to be this one thing Cook's Illustrated tested and hated (a gizmo that would hold a spoon and push it in a circle) because it missed parts of the pan and it burned.

But that gizmo looks... okay? I do wonder if it does hit all areas of the pan frequently enough and has enough force to pick up fondy bits of food that are starting to stick.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:47 AM on March 8, 2011


While that does look like a fine dish (well, if you werent a vegetarian like me) risotto is not really that hard to make. I think the hardest thing about folks learning how to cook is getting past the notion that sometimes you have to pay attention to what you're doing. Yummy risotto can be crafted in less than 30 min, no engineering necessary.
posted by elendil71 at 8:48 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


but how did they overcome the law of conservation of angular momentum?

As I understand it, angular momentum only has to be conserved for a closed system. Since the battery-powered motor continually adds rotational energy, it's permitted that there is net torque done by the blades in the pan. It seems like it's just constructed of a central mass (likely the motor and batteries) that is counter-rotating with the blades.
posted by Rhomboid at 8:56 AM on March 8, 2011


RoboStir.
posted by Fizz


Cute, but I'm not sure the AA batteries would make it through one batch. Apparently it only works with pans that have a completely flat bottom. This is a bit pricier, but it includes the pot and the stove.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:59 AM on March 8, 2011


Your explanation of how to add rotational energy is messed up, but your conclusion is potentiall sound: The body could be counter-rotating. But I have trouble visualizing how that's going to work in an actual pan.

On the bottom, there's friction against the pan and the viscosity of the food. On the top, it's just rotating in air. How is that going to work? Shouldn't it just wedge in on the bottom and rotate on the top?

The only thing I can think of is that it's actually bouncing around. When one foot is in contact, it can rotate but at no other time. The video doesn't show it doing that at all but this wouldn't be the first lying infomercial.
posted by DU at 9:00 AM on March 8, 2011


I just realized I have leftover risotto in the refrigerator from a few nights ago. Dinner plans are settled. Risotto cakes it is!
posted by emelenjr at 9:11 AM on March 8, 2011


The torque that gets the stirring feet moving against the friction of the fluid and surface of the pan is the reaction against the inertia of the mass of the counterweight. In the video you can see the grey shell is rotating at the same rate as the stirrers but I'm assuming that the mass is internal (again, comprised of the motor and batteries.) It's possible that this is pulsed; if you've ever held a DC motor in your hand while applying voltage you can feel the counter-torque that's generated as a reaction against the rotor.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:20 AM on March 8, 2011


Ah, pulsed, right! I thought of the reaction against inertia, but that only works when accelerating. Pulsing the motor could fix that. I notice they don't show us how it sounds.
posted by DU at 9:31 AM on March 8, 2011


I love how what started out as a culinary discussion about cooking risotto has turned into a physics discussion about "how to build a stirring robot."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:33 AM on March 8, 2011 [5 favorites]



I love how what started out as a culinary discussion about cooking risotto has turned into a physics discussion about "how to build a stirring robot."




Isn't anyone else concerned about the the ethics of Chinese manufactured robots putting honest, hard working American sous chefs out of a living?!?!

I'm totally flagging this post. :D
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:35 AM on March 8, 2011


culinaryengineering discussion about cookingengineering risotto
posted by DU at 9:37 AM on March 8, 2011


This kind of thing sucks the joy out of cooking for me.

I agree one hundred percent, Keith Talent. It's pretty easy to make things taste good if you use incredibly high-quality ingredients and expensive equipment. Turning your basic supermarket fare into something magical is a lot more of an accomplishment, I think.

Pretty much everyone could look good with an unlimited budget in an Armani store. Looking great in Salvation Army finds is a lot harder. And cooler.
posted by DLWM at 10:05 AM on March 8, 2011


Actually, thinking about it a little more I don't think pulsed accelerations would work. In order to reach a steady-state, the bits of acceleration would have to be countered by equal amounts of deceleration due to drag/friction, otherwise the rate just keeps increasing forever. And that drag would impart an equal and opposite amount of torque in the other direction.

Well, the video does say something about gyroscopic action, so perhaps there is something that spins about a horizontal axis which provides a reaction against which a second motor can cause a rotation about the vertical.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


How is that going to work?
You can't explain that!
posted by k5.user at 10:10 AM on March 8, 2011


Mario Batali says you don't need to constantly stir, and if half assing it is good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

Right. Adding a bit of light broth and incorporating it has served me well for over fifty years. I'm adding Risi e Bisi, a specialty of Venice, for the vegetarians.
posted by francesca too at 10:14 AM on March 8, 2011


Pretty much everyone could look good with an unlimited budget in an Armani store. Looking great in Salvation Army finds is a lot harder. And cooler.

Yes, and risotto is a simple dish, that works perfectly well with simple ingredients. His first recipe, the Jamie Oliver one, is too complicated. That makes him think the reason the new, simple one works is the superior (expensive) ingredients. But it isn't. Risotto doesn't need garlic and herbs and pesto to taste good. Just butter, onion, rice, wine, stock and cheese, and more butter. A good stock can be made of scraps from a roast chicken or roast whatever. Cheese can be parmigiano, or something equivalent. Cooking takes 30 minutes, stirring now and then. Why this complicated microwave project?
posted by mumimor at 10:15 AM on March 8, 2011


And yet another possibility would be that the little stirrer feet have different coefficients of friction in each direction (i.e. they like to move one way and not the other) and the body just plain vibrates, which causes a ratchet/inchworm effect that results in net rotation.

Sorry for the technical aside, but it's curiosity at its worst.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:16 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Baked risotto is great. I use a recipe from Cook's Illustrated. This blogger has reprinted it (for now at least). And-- no stirring!
posted by TrarNoir at 10:42 AM on March 8, 2011


I had forgotten the name of thepauperedchef.com. It's a good food blog. Thanks for the post.
posted by theora55 at 10:44 AM on March 8, 2011


I just realized I have leftover risotto in the refrigerator from a few nights ago. Dinner plans are settled. Risotto cakes it is!

Ditto.

Risotto doesn't need garlic and herbs

They certainly don't hurt, but those are also not the expensive ingredients.
posted by atbash at 10:45 AM on March 8, 2011


I inherited a love of cooking and eating Risotto from my father, who used to say that they key ingredients to the perfect Risotto are friends in the kitchen and a glass of wine. Since he's been gone I've made it many times using those guidelines and it's always been the best Risotto I could imagine, yet for the life of me I cannot recall how much or how often I stirred.
posted by gyusan at 10:46 AM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'll admit to being confused by all the fuss. Making a risotto is neither hard, nor expensive, nor even that time consuming. No Italian housewife is just standing by the stove for an hour to make a risotto dish for her family, and you don't have to either. I'm not even a formally trained chef and *I* know this...

(Pet peeve: "risotto" is not a RECIPE, it's a COOKING METHOD, like "braise" or "saute." Arguing over "what ingredients make up a risotto" is a contradiction in terms. Making a risotto requires only two components: a solid and a liquid; the solid is most often rice but I've had delicious dishes cooked in a risotto style using orzo, couscous, and of all things elbow macaroni. The method is simply that the solid is cooked very slowly in the liquid, and as the liquid is absorbed into the solid, more liquid is added. That's it. There are other facets of the method - toast the solid to increase absorbency, stir occasionally to allow even access to liquid - but they are not essential, merely recommended. Once you know this much, the rest is just simple "try it and see.")
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 10:51 AM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


My technique is to stir, add slightly more stock than you would if you were intending to stir constantly, LID ON THE PAN, do something else for a minute, stir, add slightly more stock than you would if you were intending to stir constantly, LID ON THE PAN, do something else for a minute, stir, add slightly more stock than you would if you were intending to stir constantly, LID ON THE PAN, do something else for a minute, stir, add slightly more stock than you would if you were intending to stir constantly, LID ON THE PAN, do something else for a minute, stir etc.

This allows you to get more heat under the pan, reduces cooking time and stirring. I wouldn't try it the first time you attempt risotto, or if you're easily distracted, but I can't detect any difference in the final product.
posted by tigrefacile at 11:02 AM on March 8, 2011


I inherited a love of cooking and eating Risotto from my father, who used to say that they key ingredients to the perfect Risotto are friends in the kitchen and a glass of wine.

It certainly helps break up the monotony if you're a firm believer in methods that require constant stirring. The only problem I ever encounter with risotto is occasionally overcooking it.
posted by Hylas at 11:06 AM on March 8, 2011


OneMonkeysUncle, though I agree with your basic premise, I wonder why you don't think the initial toasting is part of the method?

And atbash, ofcourse money isn't the issue, it's the complication. While I have had nice risottos with garlic now and then, I was reacting to this idea that Italian food is *always* food with garlic in it. Often, adding garlic makes perfectly nice Italian food almost inedible. And I like garlic. Risotto is one of those many foods that aren't usually made with garlic in northern Italy, which is risotto-country. Bolognese sugo is another.
posted by mumimor at 11:09 AM on March 8, 2011


So what IS the platonic idea of risotto? I don't think I've ever had it, so I'm not sure I'd know how to make it either. The risottos I've had in restaurants are a little to gooey and intensely cheesey/buttery for my taste as a main dish, although they're nice as a small accompaniment to a piece of fish or chicken.
posted by yarly at 11:15 AM on March 8, 2011


If it were seriously an article about engineering risotto, as opposed to being mostly about refining a particular flavor variation, I would expect it to touch upon issues such as:

• Stirring versus shaking the pan; and that the ostensible purpose of this is to help mix the stock but more importantly, has the effect of abrading the surface of the grain to tease out the starches in stages.

• The times and ratio needed; and in particular, whether in a service setting, it is acceptable for advance preparation up to, say, the penultimate stage (c.f. French Laundry Cookbook).

• Resting the risotto for 5 minutes under nearly-closed lid to let it bloom/mantecatura. (Is this before or after stirring in the butter?) And why should the butter be cold, diced? (c.f. Wikipedia)

• Choice of flavorings, being some combination of bones, white v.s. red wine, meats, saffron, butter, cheese—this is not essential to risotto technique (which I think is fundamentally a study about texture), but judicious application at the various stages helps to raise the level of taste and presentation.

• Making connections to related dishes that use the same principles; ideas for new dishes/variations on these principles. Could you do it with steelcut oatmeal?

• Precise specification of the final state: how fluid should it be? What are the grains supposed to be like? What temperature to serve it at?

• Other issues of interest.

That is what I would call engineering.
posted by polymodus at 11:26 AM on March 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


No garlic!? Basta!
posted by thinkpiece at 11:29 AM on March 8, 2011


> Overthinking a plate of beans bowl of rice plate of shrimp.
posted by Gelatin at 11:30 AM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I even thought of bristlebots, but assumed the feet of the robostir were smooth. If they aren't, this could work.
posted by DU at 11:42 AM on March 8, 2011


Metafilter: If half assing it is good enough for him, it's good enough for me.
posted by Danf at 11:44 AM on March 8, 2011


meh ... risotto in the pressure cooker is close-enough to perfect for me ... takes 10 minutes and no stirring.
posted by jannw at 12:45 PM on March 8, 2011


Just before seeing this post, I made a smoked salmon risotto using my usual method (similar to tigrefacile's but stirring constantly for the last 5-10 minutes.) I think that method works fine in a standard tall, cylindrical stockpot.

Tonight I was using a new pot: my wide, shallow braiser. It got done really fast, but I admit I had to scrape stuck bits off the bottom a couple of times. The next risotto I make in it will be constantly stirred.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:01 PM on March 8, 2011


Tomorrow I have a hospital appointment and as a result I am nil by mouth today. For some reason (maybe because I love risotto) I decided to click on this link.

I'm now ten times hungrier than I have been all day, those pictures are driving me mad, but one things for certain, I know what I'm cooking when I get back tomorrow.
posted by ciderwoman at 1:45 PM on March 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just have to say the saffron isn't only for color, add just enough and you get that cloying hint of flavor that contrasts deliciously with the more savory elements.
posted by Max Power at 2:32 PM on March 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


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