Chef Giani Respinto shares secrets for making GianMarco's risotto.
By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
To make a great risotto you need the finest of ingredients, proper procedure and eighteen minutes. "The combinations are endless, but the procedure never changes," chef Giani Respinto explains. "When Gianmarco's customers order our seafood risotto, they are told it takes 18 minutes to prepare it."
Ingredients include high quality stock, unsalted butter, extra virgin olive oil, saffron, white onions and rice. Risotto means, “little rice” in Italian. And for his risotto, Respinto uses a small-grained Italian rice, Vialone Nano. “You can also use sushi rice. High quality rice can be found at Tria Market, V. Richard’s and Whole Foods Markets.”
Soffritto, which means, “sub fried” in Italian, is the base of many Italian dishes. This basic soffritto is prepared with olive oil and chopped onions. “I use Raineri olive oil because it comes from a temperate region, so the oils are not too acidic.”
If you want to add other ingredients, such as seafood, these should be cooked and ready to add to the cooked risotto. They should never be added to the rice while it is cooking.
On one front eye of the stove boil the selected stock, such as chicken, fish, vegetable. Use the other front eye to cook the risotto. “Have patience and plan to be at the stove because this is not the kind of rice that you walk away from,” Respinto says. “You have to constantly watch the consistency and keep stirring.”
Some people think you have to use a wooden spoon. My aunts in Italy stir their risotto with their wooden risotto spoons that are centuries old. But any spoon or spatula will work.” Respinto also says that there is no special stirring technique necessary.
1. Heat extra virgin olive oil in a wide, shallow pan.
2. Add chopped white onions.
3. Add rice.
4. Stir and toast the onions and rice. But do not allow to brown.
5. Add enough stock to cover the rice. Keep at a constant boil throughout the procedure, while stirring constantly with a large spoon.
6. Sprinkle saffron into boiling mixture. The saffron will change the color, which will intensify to a golden color by the time the rice is fully cooked.
7. Once the rice has absorbed enough liquid that you can pull the rice across the middle of the pan and see the bottom of the pan, it is time to add more stock.
8. Repeat steps five and seven (but not six) twice.
9. Reduce heat to prevent scorching after the third addition of stock.
10. Repeat steps five and seven (but not six) two more times.
11. Repeat step five. After it has reduced in half, taste before adding desired seasonings, including salt.
12. Once the rice has absorbed enough liquid that you can pull the rice across the middle of the pan and see the bottom of the pan, taste again. Add seasonings as needed and a drizzle of olive oil.
13. Turn eye off. Add cubes of unsalted butter to the risotto.
14. Grate fresh grana pandana cheese into the risotto.
15. Stir to incorporate the butter and cheese into the risotto.
16. Taste one more time.
Every grain of rice should al dente, firm to the tooth. “Risotto should be crunchy but creamy, not mushy or dry. When you plate it the risotto should spread out a little.”
The only variation from this procedure for Respinto is when he makes Borolo risotto. For this dish he replaces the liquid in the first addition of stock with Borolo wine. But he keeps stock as the liquid in the remaining five additions.