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Sep 15, 2006 03:59 PM

Risotto came out mushy-1st time

I made risotto for the first time last night. The flavor was a bit tangy but tasty and the texture mushy.

Why did my risotto turn out mushy and tangy? Did I over-stir and did the shallots or the clam juice (the recipe did not call for shallots or clam juice) make it tangy? Or maybe the Korbel champagne was tangy?

After researching about 50 risotto recipes, I chose a Champagne Risotto with Asparagus and saffron that I found on a google search. I wanted a recipe that incorporated saffron and scallops although this one did not include scallops. I added the scallops towards the remaining 15 minutes or so.

Why did my risotto turn to mush? I stirred constantly throughout the entire cooking process which lasted about 1 hour. Per the recipe, I added the first cup of liquid; about 1 cup of hot stock to the sauteed rice, onions, and a touch of shallots (recipe did not call for shallots) and stirred constantly until the liquid was nearly dried up, then 1 cup of warm champagne, then slowly added the hot stock and champagne stirring constantly until all liquid was gone.

The recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of Italian arborio rice, 2 1/2 cups of champagne, and 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock. I substituted one cup of chicken stock for 1 cup of clam juice just to kick it up a bit. Did the clam juice or the shallots make my risotto tangy?

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  1. The main reason risotto goes mushy IME is simply overcooking. You have to taste regularly, particularly once the rice kernel is fluffed up and the center is no longer dead opaque. Remember that the rice continues to cook from residual heat after you remove it from the stove.

    The amount of liquid in any recipe is only a guide, you could use more or less depending on your rice, humidity, heat at which you're cooking etc. That's why in your earlier thread posters stressed that there's no real recipe, just a method.

    Everyone goes through this learning experience when making risotto. As long as it tasted good, it's not all a waste.

    1. I have never made risotto the "right" way. I've had foolproof results making it in the oven (yes, really!). I use one box of arborio rice to one large can of broth. If I want ingred in the risotto I saute them first on top of the stove in my calphalon saucier (8.5 qts) then add the rice & broth, and bake it in the oven covered. Comes out perfect.

      1. Cheryl H is correct: the risotto was overcooked. You really can't rely on measuring because the rice can vary in size and you have different rates of evaporation of the stocks at different temps etc. You really just cover the rice with the liquid several times and keep stirring and keep tasting. The rice should be removed while it is still al dente, because risotto continues to cook. If you need to arrest the cooking process, lay the rice out on a sheet pan, and it will stop cooking in a couple minutes. You can then finish the process later. Most restaurants cook risotto to %75 done, lay it out on sheet pans, and then finish the order with stock and whatever ingredients they are using on pick up.

        It sounds like the champagne made your risotto tangy. Wine can do that. One way to take out the "winey" taste of wine is to make sure the alcohol is cooked out. When you sautee the onions at the start of your risotto, deglaze w/ the wine/champagne and the alcohol will cook out, not into your rice.

        BTW: to make your risotto extra rich, add a little marscapone cheese to finish.

        6 Replies
        1. re: tbear

          Yeah, good point about the alcohol in the risotto. The recipe did not allow for the alcohol to evaporate/cook out. I think I prefer the flavor of wine in the rice. Either way, I'll cook out the wine or champagne in the very beginning next time.

          I overthought my risotto this time around. I now know that I overcooked the rice. Did I over stir it as well? My arms were pretty exhausted from my vigorous stirring. Rice in general turns to mush if you over stir. Also, should I cover the cast iron pot at any point?

          1. re: amoncada

            You can't stir risotto too much, but you can stir it too hard. It helps if you have a pot designed for risotto (rounded not squared off where the walls hit the bottom) and I like to use a Flat wooden spoon/spatula.

            1. re: ronzen

              A saucier will do very nicely. I agree that you can't stir too much, but too much vigour and you will break down the rice. (This is why some stovetop recipes for rice pudding insist that you stir rather more vigorously than you would otherwise -- the idea is to mush it up.)

              2 1/2 cups of champagne sounds an awful lot... I'll bet I use half a cup of wine maximum in my risotto, when I use it at all.

              You must taste your risotto often so that as soon as it's just barely shy of done (meaning it's just a tiny bit crunchy) you take it off... by the time you plate it and eat it, it'll be done to a turn.

              1. re: ronzen

                OK, I definitely stirred too vigorously. Yeah, I didn't see a single recipe that called for sooo much wine or champagne. It sounds like 2/12 cups is far too much. Most recipes that incorporate wine, vermouth, or champagne only require 1/2 to 1 cup. I'd better give it a try again soon while I still have all this great info fresh in my mind. I think I'll check out a few Foodnetwork online risotto episodes as can't hurt.

                I'll be visiting the P's in New Orleans in a couple of weeks. Both mom and Dad make great paella and risotto so, I'll be sure to get a lesson or two.

              2. re: amoncada

                I've never been exhausted after making risotto so I think you may be overstirring it. I stir fairly briskly at the beginning, when I first start adding stock. After that it needs a gentle stir to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom and to encourage evaporation. It's a bit boring but not tiring. A book helps while you're doing this.

                I've never used a lot of wine in any risotto recipe, at most about a 1/4 - 1/2 cup at the beginning. It helps to separate the starch layer. If you have a lot of wine it won't have cooked off completely even after an hour. But if you're after the winey flavor, that may not be a problem for you.

                Do NOT cover the pot. Your rice will stick and the risotto will be gluey. You need steady evaporation.

                1. re: amoncada

                  It doesn't sound like you over-stirred it, your arm was probably just tired because you were working on it so long. My risotto usually takes only about half an hour, so you were stirring for double the time!

                  Mushiness factor could also be the time it took between finishing the cooking and serving. Risotto needs to be served immediately after the cooking is complete.

              3. I've given up on making traditional risotto, I'd only get the right texture maybe one time in three. The other times it'd go from chalky to gluey without ever hitting the perfect in-between stage. I use the microwave method from Barbara Kafka's "Microwave Gourmet."


                4 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Microwave risotto? Drive a stake through my wanna-be-italian heart!!

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Dear god, RL touting microwave risotto??! What has the world come to??! ;-)

                    Seriously though, I never knew about microwave risotto and will give your link a serious lookover.

                    To the OP: As others said, one hour is way too long. Regardless of the type of risotto I make, it usually is done in 20-25 min. I usually add about 1/2 c. of dry, fairly neutral white wine after I toast the rice and before I add the stock. 2.5 cups of champagne is ALOT! While stirring is critical to prevent sticking and develop gluten, you don't need to go overboard. I remember being really paranoid about stirring in the beginning of my risotto making days, stirring til my arm felt like it would fall off. Now I'm much more lax and stir as necessary to prevent sticking. Also helps to have a glass of wine in the other hand. :-)

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      It would never have occurred to me to try microwave risotto, but a friend who's a great cook made it and I was impressed.

                      I've never made the small portion described in that URL, I always make the book's largest batch, which uses a 9" x 13" pan.

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        The only succesful risotto attempts I've made have been those during which I had a glass of wine in my other hand. It is as important a step as toasting the rice.

                    2. Sounds like too much Champagne to me -- half a cup is plenty, and add it before the stock. Did you have your stock over heat the entire time? If you start off with hot stock, but let it start cooling down as you cook the rice, the cooling stock will drop the temerature of the rice, lengthening the cooking time (frequently resulting in mush). I suggest that you cook plain risotto (butter, shallot, rice, stock, Parm)every night for a week. You'll "get it." Make sure that you keep the liquid in your risotto bubbling happily, not madly. Also, it's not necessary to stir constantly, just frequently. Good risotto is worth the effort it takes to learn the technique. Persevere, and good luck! Have you thought about posting your location? There might be a risotto-cooking hound in your neighborhood who would be happy to show you the ropes.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: pikawicca

                        Yes, I let the hot stock cool down. I see, the trick is to keep it hot the entire time and don't stir constantly, stir frequently. Keep the wine/champagne/vermouth to 1/2-1 cup.

                        I have great luck with Paella and Arroz Con Pollo. Risotto is much trickier.

                        Tell me more about posting a location.

                        Thanks for your help everyone.

                        1. re: amoncada

                          You can post a location at your ChowHound profile.

                          1. re: amoncada

                            If you start a new thread titled "Chowhound needs Risotto help in Flossmoor," for example,you might find there's someone nearby who's willing to give you a hand. You could try posting on the Chicago board, as well as Homecooking.