Michelin star chef Mario Gamba's tips for cooking risotto
Risotto is known to be one of the hardest rice dishes to prepare, unlike the normal jasmine rice that we often eat. This type of rice requires constant attention to detail and a whole lot of patience to cook. So, we sought out professional advice to help us tame this unyielding ingredient.
This week, Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur plays host to chef Mario Gamba, owner of the 1 Michelin Star restaurant Acquarello, for a week of gastronomical delight from 19 - 22 November at Mandarin Grill. Lucky for us, the chef took some time off his busy schedule to teach us the best way to cook a top-class risotto dish.
Growing up in the northern regions of Italy, risotto rice is one of the many eaten ingredients for Chef Mario, no matter at home or in the kitchen. Armed with 20 years of culinary experience, Chef Mario is more than just well-versed in the art of cooking risotto - he was born to do it.
Chef Mario says, "You need patience and time to cook quality dishes. So, 20 minutes to cook a plate of risotto is nothing surprising. You always need to have respect to the products you cook to make something incredible."
Read on for some quick tips in cooking a great plate of risotto:
Roast before boiling
When you start, always roast the raw risotto rice with olive oil to get a crispy exterior and to enhance the sweet rice aroma before cooking it with your consommé/stock.
Do not pour all the consommé in at one time
When cooking your risotto, pour just enough consommé to cover the rice and reduce it slowly. Repeat the steps until your risotto is cooked fully. According to Chef Mario, this process usually takes 20 to 25 minutes.
Choose your consommé carefully
To create a harmonious flavour, you need to complement your consommé or stock with the type of risotto you are cooking. For example, if you are cooking vegetable-based risotto, use a form of vegetable stock and if it is a seafood risotto, then you will need to use fish stock.
Keeping things hot
When cooking your risotto, there are three main heat settings you need to pay attention to. First, it is the heat of the risotto pan, where you broil the roasted rice grains. Then you have to keep the consommé constantly on a boiling point when pouring it into the rice for reeduction. Finally, always adjust the heat of the pan when reducing the stock while cooking your risotto to let the flavour seep into the grains slowly.
Less equals more
For Parmesan-based risottos, there is no need for salt and wine when cooking the rice because Parmesan cheese gives it a natural savoury flavour. Any other extra seasoning will overpower the sweet and light risotto flavours, unless you are cooking a saffron and white pepper-based risotto.
Choosing the right rice
There are three types of commonly used medium-grained risotto rice and each is used for different purposes. Vialone Nano and Carnaroli are used for meat or seafood risotto, while Roma is mainly used for soup or salad renditions. So, choose carefully.
While many speak about cooking al-dente pasta and risotto, there are also those who never understand what it means. Chef Mario says, "Pasta/rice is considered al-dente when there is a light resistance in texture as you bite into a string of pasta or grains of rice." It should not be tough to chew and only gives a slight spring to the bite when eaten.