Secrets to a tastier risotto
I adore making risottos. I don't use wine in the process as I prefer not to use any alcohol. I usually use extra stock liquid. Is there an alternative I can use to add extra flavour?
To be completely honest, I generally don't use wine either if I'm making risotto at home as I'd rather drink it. Seriously.
However, I have been partial to adding a few sloshes of red wine to risottos that might be enhanced by the tannic characteristics and colour - say a wild mushroom and chicken liver risotto. What I do think really enhances a risotto though is soy sauce and fish sauce. The umami characteristics of soy give a lovely earthy flavour to the rice but make it darken which wouldn't suit, say, an asparagus risotto. For this I tend to add a pale miso paste (made from wheat, rice, soy in many variations) which is wonderful. Just don't tell your Italian in-laws, and they probably wouldn't notice - except it would taste fab.
I make a risotto like this. Saute sliced onions, garlic and ginger, along with thinly sliced carrots and celery until caramelised in a little more oil or butter than is really necessary. If I'm adding spices such as coriander seeds (lovely with vegetable, chicken and fish risottos), cumin seeds (meatier risotto) or crushed cardamom or star anise (hearty grunty risottos) then I add them at this stage as well to liven them up. Next I add the rice and cook it for a minute, stirring the whole time to coat the rice. Next I add thinly sliced leeks (if available - they really give body to the risotto as they break up) and any hard herbs such as rosemary, thyme, bay, oregano. Next in is a cup of wine if using, which can be added cold at this stage and if not, then enough water (or stock if using) to cover the rice by 1cm.
Let the liquid bubble away, stirring every now and then and when it's fallen below the level of the rice I add the miso paste or soy sauce, salt and pepper and then begin the process of adding enough simmering stock to cover the rice by 1cm. I only ever stir it when I add the liquid and otherwise leave it to slowly cook and absorb under its own steam. Once the rice is almost fully cooked I stir in any soft herbs such as basil, mint, tarragon and parsley. This is also when I stir in mascarpone or cream, if using, and check for seasoning. Then I put a lid on and leave to the side of the stove for 5 minutes before stirring one last time, tasting for seasoning and serving.
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