We have explored the gelatinization of rice starch and its hydration in both our 7 minute and 6 minute risottos. These two methods produce excellent risotto with a shortened final cooking time. I spent a lot of time thinking about the gelatinization of rice starches and wondering if we could cook them at a higher temperature. I remembered a story from a chef who worked for Marco Pierre White. She said they used to boil risotto in flavored broth, in her story, squid ink, strain the rice, cool it on sheet pans and reserve the starchy, inky broth to use to reheat the risotto to order.
We had never tried the technique. It was in direct line with my current thinking. So we tested a few things. We took Arborio rice and boiled it in water for 12 minutes. We strained it and shocked the rice in an ice bath to hasten the cooling proces. In my haste I poured the starchy water down the drain. (And in this case it was just fine.)
When the rice was cold we drained it from the ice bath and patted it dry. We sauteed some garlic and onion in butter. Then we added the rice, an English pea puree and a touch of Parmigiano Reggiano stock. We brought the mixture to a simmer and cooked everything for one minute. We emulsified the risotto with a knob of butter, some more Parmigiano Regiano, Espelette pepper, and a spoonful of creme fraiche. Then we finished it with a healthy drizzle of mint oil.
This took a few attempts to perfect. The boiled rice was cooked al dente. But it did not need much time on the heat to finish cooking. Since we discarded the starch water we had to look to other thickeners. In our first few tests I added straight broth. The rice overcooked and didn't become creamy and thick. Even the first runs with the pea puree overcooked because we were used to cooking the rice hot and hard. We didn't need to do that here, we just needed to warm it through and let the center hydrate. It's a quick process that requires a touch of finesse.
And once the technique is mastered, we can start thinking about flavor. We have the opportunity to capture the starch in a seasoned liquid and reintroduce it to the rice. Kenji, over at Serious Eats, explored risotto in great detail and does a washed rice risotto, which is very clever. If we remember to reserve the broth we will need less of a puree and will get the body from the natural starch leaving us lots of room to play.
May 7, 2006