Guide to Cheese Types
Arborio Rice - Gourmet Guide
June 12, 2019 | By Dave Mattingly
Arborio Rice is best known as the classic Italian rice for making risotto. Arborio rice falls into the category of "short-grained rice." This differentiates it from long-grained rice, such as the narrow grains of jasmine or basmati rice. Arborio rice is shaped more like a football, with a smooth, shiny exterior. Especially when making risotto, you want to seek out short-grain varieties of rice, like Arborio, as their high starch content will allow them to easily absorb liquid and give risotto its characteristic thick consistency. Arborio rice does not undergo as much milling as normal rice, which also helps to maintain its high starch content. Be sure not to rinse or wash Arborio Rice as that will eliminate its sticky, starchy qualities. Look for Superfino on the label, indicating the highest grade Arborio Rice.
Arborio Rice in Risotto: Arborio rice is a great choice for risotto, as it can thicken a great deal of liquid without the grains of rice becoming soggy or pulpy. It's simple to learn how to make risotto if you follow two simple rules: stir the grains often and add liquid slowly. When making risotto, first sauté some onion and garlic in olive oil, then add your dry Arborio grains. Cook them in the hot oil for about five minutes until they take on a light brown appearance and toasty aroma. This will help to enhance their flavor, add a nutty taste to the aroma, and warm up the rice.
Keeping the grains warm is an important part of extracting all of the starch you can from risotto. The more starch you can coax out of the Arborio Rice, the creamier your risotto will be. For this reason, it is recommended to slowly ladle in about a 1/2 cup of warm broth or water at a time to your pot of rice, stirring all the while. The easiest way to keep your broth warm is to keep a separate pot on the stove at a low simmer and ladle directly into the rice. If you were to add cold broth, that would stop the cooking process, and prevent your sauce from getting creamy. Once the Arborio rice has absorbed the 1/2 cup, add another ladleful of broth.
Why go to all this trouble? By slowly adding the liquid, you repeatedly leach starch out of the Arborio rice to thicken the sauce. A similar result is achieved by the constant stirring, which agitates the rice to pull the starch out. While you do not have to go through all of these steps, you will be missing out on what makes Arborio Rice such a prized short grain rice in the Italian pantry.
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