Risotto! I owe this next challenge to Kiki Luthringshausen from Beauty and Her Feast along with Alessandro Bellini from Viola Imports; who conspired to send A Michelin and A Mom a beautiful tin of Acquerello Carnaroli rice. I love to cook risotto and was pumped to tackle this challenge. There are many theories on how to make a risotto; to stir or not, to make the rice to order, to use carnaroli, arborio, or vialone nano. Depending on what region of Italy you come from will determine how you cook the rice as well. There’s no dispute, however, that when executed correctly, there are few things better than risotto. I had never cooked with the Acquerello rice before, so I did a little reading before cooking and discovered the unique story of how the rice is harvested and treated.
The Rondolini Family has been harvesting rice on their estate, “Tenuta Colombara”, in the province of Vercelli in Piemonte since 1935. In 1998, the entire production became organic. After the harvest, the un-hulled grains of Acquerello Carnaroli are aged in temperature controlled silos from one to three years. The aging makes the starch, proteins and vitamins less water soluble. It improves the consistency of the grains and enables them to absorb more cooking liquid. In short, the cooked grains are bigger, firmer, do not stick together and taste great. After aging, the rice has to be refined and “whitened”. A machine called the “screw” invented in 1875 is still regarded as the gold standard. It gently rubs grains against each other to produce a perfectly polished, honey colored rice. The family uses a piece of equipment called the Helix during the stone husking process; the Helix was invented in 1875 and is exclusive to them.
It’s absolutely true that the grains absorb the liquid well and are bigger and firmer. I was completely blown away by the size of the grains just before serving. The grains held up extremely well and created an amazing texture and mouth feel when eating the risotto, and to me this is one of the most important parts of risotto. If the rice is over cooked or starts to break down – game over. It does not matter if it is seasoned perfectly or not, just start again. One of the most unique characteristics I noticed was, as the rice cooled down it did not start to stick together like most risottos I have seen; you could really see the beautiful grains of rice standing free.
For my risotto I stuck to a simple recipe that I have had in my book for about 16 years. It has never failed me to date and again it worked perfectly with this amazing rice. I really wanted to showcase the rice as much as possible so I stuck to simple flavors that would only enhance the dish, and yes I finished the rice with a special ingredient, called acid butter. If my memory serves me correct, this recipe came from Gualtiero Marchesi, arguably Italy’s most famous chef who won 3 Michelin Stars at the age of 78. I learned to make both risotto and acid butter working for Marco Pierre White at Les Saveurs in London. A bonus to this risotto recipe is the ability to prepare the first stage of it the day before and on the day of serving the rice, you will have a good idea of how long it will take to finish cooking. Hope you enjoy making these recipes as much as I did and hopefully they will create ever lasting memories as they have for me. Risotto with Acid Butter and Duck with Apricot Marmalade – on our RECIPES page.