Wednesday, September 17, 2008

seafood risotto

The perfect risotto was on top of our list of dishes we wanted to learn in Florence. So on the very first day, we were already shown the secrets of the perfect, authentic, Italian, cooked by a cute Italian chef risotto. Yes, the cute Italian chef was an unexpected but very welcome bonus. (Sex and the City moment in another post)

We learned several "secrets" actually. First being, your risotto is as good as the stock you use. The restaurant's seafood stock was a cauldron that approximated a witch's. It had swimming in it flora (celery, white onion, leeks) and fauna (fish
and seafood heads, tails, trimmings). They don't put anything that will dominate the delicate balance of flavors- hence, no garlic, no salmon, etc... Once again, it was about the perfect balance and complementing natural flavors.

Second secret- Saute the rice in butter until it is translucent, releasing the starch, before adding the wine and the broth. They introduced us to Carnaroli, which according to Chef Cutie is better than the more familiar Arborio. And if Chef Cutie says so, then we believe! Doing this takes longer than what I was used to before. I guess I was afraid of burning the rice but this step does make a creamier risotto.

Third secret- You don't have to watch the risotto as much as we were lead to believe. We actually cooked several other dishes while the risotto was on the stove so we did pretty much leave it on its own for at least 5 minute intervals. Just make sure to stir and add more broth to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Fourth- Take the pot off the stove before you think the rice is done. Following the al dente school of thought, we don't want to end up with lugaw. Sayang naman ang canaroli. Then add a chunk of butter, cover and let rest. If just before serving, your risotto stands or hold its shape, add more broth. I think this was a wonderful restaurant secret/lesson we learned not just for the risotto. Stop cooking before something
is truly done. That way you can "heat" it or finish cooking just before serving without overcooking a dish.

So there, four valuable lessons and Cute Italian Chef in just one lesson. Sulit di ba? In the post-Florence world, there may be no cute Italian Chef, but the lessons he shared go a long, long way.

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