We may have made our own technique obsolete. It began with a request for risotto. We're in MA visiting family and on the second night we cook dinner. So off we went to the market to buy arborio rice and various accompaniments. As we were walking down the aisles Aki said "Since we dont have our circulator, do you think it would work if we soaked the rice." Alex paused for a minute, grinned and said "Only one way to find out."
This came after a week of discussions about technology. We've noticed that technology, while designed to make cooking easier, in many cases does the opposite. By opening up the realms of possiblity we sometimes succumb to overcomplication. In our book, which is being released tomorrow, we talk about hydration and the cooking of starch, via pasta, potatoes and risotto. There's a wonderful process using an immersion circulator to par cook rice that results in 7 minute risotto. We hydrate and then retrograde the starch, which stabilizes it so that you can rapidly boil your risotto, cook it perfectly and hold it without it becoming a gluey mess. It's less starchy than the original but still delicious and much more functional especially for dinner parties or in a restaurant setting.
Today we soaked our arborio rice for 2 hours with fresh thyme, garlic and a bay leaf. We drained it and patted it dry, storing it in the fridge until dinner time. Theoretically since we had already hydrated the starch we simply needed to heat and gelatinize it to finish the dish. We started off with a pan of hot bacon fat and sweated one onion. Once it was translucent, we cooked the rice in the fat to evenly coat it. Once we had glazed the rice, we added the hot stock (basically 1 part rice to 3 parts stock) all at once and let it boil. Amazingly it cooked up similarly to the risotto from our book. However, in this instance we retain all the starch and get the creamy risotto that many people prefer. Unfortunately, this process does not have the holding qualities of the cooked retrograded rice in the book, but it does solve the problem of speed. In fact, since this rice retains the integrity of traditional risotto preparations while being cooked in one third the time, it begs the question, did we just trump ourselves?