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Risotto with brown rice?

Hello All!

Is there any way to cook a good risotto with brown rice instead of the usual Aboria or Carnorali rice?

Any help provided would be greatly appreciated.


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  1. Risotto is a creamy textured preparation. I'm not sure you'll get that texture using brown rice but apparently it's not uncommon to use brown rice in a risotto recipe:


    1. I sub pearl barley for arborio all the time. Not quite the creamy consistency you get from Arborio, but still tasty and nutritionally a lot better for you.

      1. If you want to make a brown rice risotto, look for Japanese short grain brown rice. Great flavor, and unlike brown arborio rice, it will gain the creamy porridgy texture required for a true risotto. The bran on brown arborio doesn't let the starches out and you'll just end up with rice in broth. Any Asian market near you should stock the short grain brown rice. Doesn't matter if it's imported from Japan or grown in California, they both work.

        If you're just looking for a change, orzo pasta makes a surprisingly good risotto too. I'm making it with braised oxtails tomorrow.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Caroline1

          Would you share your oxtail recipe? I have some on hand and would love to hear how you do it. I was planning on using the Mario Batali recipe from Molto Italiano just to get involved in this months CoftheM, but I'm not super inspired by the recipe.
          Do you blanche them before braising (they suggest this in the book), also do you leave them bone on? Batali instructs you to take the meat off the bone before serving. This goes against my instict when it comes to ox tails.
          Enjoying this colder weather and looking forward to months of braising!

          1. re: rabaja

            These days I do most of my eating alone or with my housekeeper, who accepts my idiosyncrasies, and I'm a very tactile person... Sooo... I usually finish off braised oxtails by picking up the bones and then returning them to my plate as white and bleached as if they'd spent a decade in desert sand under a broiling sun! So obviously I don't remove the meat from the bones before serving. But when I stop to think about it, I've never served oxtails for a formal dinner.

            Recipe? Well, what I will likely do tomorrow is this:

            No. I do not wash my oxtails. But I might also add that the beef I'm using is organic grass fed from Aldersprings Ranch. The tails are already jointed and will come out of the cryovac moist and ready to roll in seasoned flour. Oh, and I NEVER remove the meat from the bone with oxtails.

            My method: Brown the floured oxtails in cooking grade olive oil or peanut oil in a dutch oven or deep frying pan, preferably cast iron coated with ceramic such as Le Creuset, but a stainless steel pan will work too. Just do not use non-stick or aluminum. Remove the oxtails to a holding dish, reduce the heat to low and add equal parts of finely diced carrots, onion, and celery (reserve leaves for later). A cup or two of the vegetables, depending on how many oxtails you have. This is the time to also add some garlic if you want that flavor too. When the vegetables are transparent, return the oxtails to the pan and add your choice of herbs and spices.

            This is the point at which the final outcome is determined. Traditional? Country? Italian? Asian? This is all determined by the spices, herbs and sauces you add now. I almost always use parsley. Then, depending on whether I want to take an ethnic turn, I often use these spices all or in part:

            Traditional: thyme and/or oregano. Beef stock. Possibly red wine and a Tbsp of tomato paste.

            Italian: oregano, fennel, basil (go lightly!), tomatoes, tomato past, red wine and/or beef stock.

            French: No garlic, lots of miapoix (the veggies above), parsley, bay leaf (or two), mushrooms, a rich red wine, a Tbsp or two of tomato paste, a dollop of cognac.

            Middle East: A light pinch of cinnamon, fresh mint and dill, a handfull of currants and pine nuts, beef broth and a touch of tomato paste. This is also good if a load of fresh green beans and a large finely chopped onion and sliced tomato (skin on) are added at the beginning and allowed to stew with the oxtails for a couple of hours.

            Indian-ish: saffron OR turmeric (go easy), corriander, cardamom, dried ginger, a really good curry powder. Depends on how far you want to go. But do keep in mind there are NO traditional Indian recipes that include beef, so this is strictly an "in the manner of" undertaking.

            Asian: anything from a hint of soy sauce to no holds barred with star anise, lemon grass, fish saice, corriander, whatever...

            For tomorrow, I plan on going the traditional route with the mirapoix, parsley, bay leaf, Burgundy wine and beef stock with a tablespoon or so of tomato paste. When the broth tastes right (I don't salt things until just before serving because you can always add more salt but it's difficult to take salt out), I will braise it at least a couple of hours. If needed, when the beef is practically "falling off the bones," I will remove the oxtails and reduce the stock if it's not think enough. Add salt to taste. Then return the oxtails and serve next to the orzo risotto, spooning the saice and soft begetables over the beef. I'll garnish the oxtails with a few celery leaves and a Micro-Planing of lemon zest just before serving, which is reminiscent of the traditional finish for osso buco.

            Whatever you decide to do, a toast to your great success and enjoy!

            1. re: Caroline1

              Love reading you!
              In your Middle Eastern variation, do you add pine nuts with initial ingredients or as texture substance after the soup has evolved or some time in between?

              1. re: kc girl

                Thank you! On the Middle Easter variations, I don't usually use the carrot and celery, but I do add the pine nuts with the onions before I've browned the oxtails. Then, when I put the oxtails in the pan I toss in the currants, fresh dill weed, fresh chopped mint, beef broth, a bit of red wine (Turkish wine is great, and Greek isn't too shabby either) and some tomato paste, then slow braise for a couple of hours. Instead of rice or orzo, I most often us bulgur.

                The other Middle Easter variation I do with oxtails is a play on a very old traditional Turkish recipe called "etli cali fasulyesi" (green bean stew with meat), except I use the oxtails instead of the traditional cubed beef or lamb. Lamb shanks would also work instead of the oxtails. First string and slice in half lengthwise two pounds of fresh green beans. I have tried it with frozen French cut green beans and they just never develop the same flavor as the fresh. Set the beans aside. Chop fine or grate a fairly large onion and sweat the onion in a couple of generous Tbsps of butter over medium heat in a dutch oven with a tight fitting lid. When the onions are transparent, remove them from the pan and brown the oxtails. Sometimes I coat them with flour first, sometimes I don't. When the oxtails are browned add about a cup of water, cover tightly and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half. They should be just reaching "tender" but not falling off the bone.. During that time, cut a large tomato in half "stem to blossom", then slice it the same direction. Do not peel the tomatoe as they cooked red strings of tomato skin add color and flavor to the finished dish. Toss the green beans with the onions to coat evenly. Put the string bean/onion mixture in the pan on top of the beef. Add salt and pepper to taste. Now spread the sliced tomatoes over the top and add another cup of water. Cover tightly and cook another 45 minutes to an hour until beans are quite done and tender and beef is tender too. My Turkish friends usually served the green bean stew with a macaroni side and some chunks of feta to much along with it is nice.

                If you have a nearby farmer's market with really good heirloom green beans and heirloom tomatoes, that's the way to fly! I wish all the idiots who have bio-egineered the flavor out of my vegetables would all grow warts on their noses!


        2. I'm letting loose my inner "hermudgeon" here: When did they pass a low that prohibits making anything (unless it's Asian) with rice unless you can call it risotto? I recall Julia Child making a rice soubise that sounded every bit as good or better. Now it seems we have to call pilaf risotto too, even if there's no rice in it! Go ahead and use the brown rice. If you don't like the consistency, stir in some dairy (yogurt, cream cheese, cream - whatever's handy) and play around until you get something yummy. End of rant ;-)

          1 Reply
          1. re: greygarious

            The OP was asking about making 'a good risotto', and mentions a couple of the usual types of rice. I take that to mean that he wants a rice dish that has the same character as one made with that rice. Brown rice, with an intact bran, won't release as much starch, and thus won't form its own sauce. Could he make a good rice dish using brown rice, and similar flavorings (including wine)? Sure. Could he add some creaminess with dairy as you suggest? Yes. But should either be called 'a good risotto'?

          2. I've really enjoyed this baked brown rice risotto - both brown, and no stovetop stirring!


            I also second melyna's barley risotto - it has such a wonderful texture, and is really tasty.

            1. There's a great risotto recipe using brown rice in The Flexitarian Table cookbook, which was a COTM earlier this year.
              I agree the shorter asian style brown rice is desirable, I suggest Massa rice. It's an organic rice out of California. Cooks up really creamy and delicious.

              1. It's definitely possible; all you need to do is parboil the rice! It's a tip given by Mark Bittman - add the whole wheat short grain rice to a pot, cover it with at least an inch of water and bring it to a boil. Boil for 12 minutes, drain and set it aside. Use it in your risotto recipe as you would Arborio rice. I didn't think it would work but it got just as creamy and tasty as when I used arborio...

                You can get a sense of how creamy it gets from this picture:

                2 Replies
                1. re: peregrina

                  "whole wheat short grain rice"???? Do you serve that alongside braised jackalope?

                  1. re: greygarious

                    ooops, strike "whole wheat"; I meant BROWN RICE of course... no wheat involved at all, of couse ... that's what I get for trying to type with 3 kittens walking all over me lol. Sorry about the typo.

                2. To the person who suggested parboiling, that will not deliver a real risotto. Firstly, if you full-boil the rice, it will burst grains, particularly brown rice. So brown rice by risotto is particularly well suited to making brown rice with unburst grains (more well suited than some other methods of cooking rice)!

                  Caroline1 was right about getting short grain brown rice. Asians use many kinds of different rice, including glutinous high starch rices that are used for sushi or rices they use for "sticky" rice dishes. Risotto made with a brown rice from one of those varieties will produce the creamy sauce you're looking for. (Brown sushi or sticky rices will actually make much better risotto than brown rices of Arborio or Carnaroli varieties.)

                  It's really worth doing a real brown rice risotto with the right rice. IMO brown rice risotto has a fabulous chewy-at-the-edges, complex texture that you can't get with white rice risotto.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: AsperGirl

                    I didn't think it was going to work either. But I have to say it didn't burst the grain (perhaps because it isn't parboiled for long?) and it resulted in a very creamy risotto with the characteristics you describe. I always use short grain brown rice and it has not failed me yet.

                    1. re: peregrina

                      Well if it has been working for you, it must be good advice. I was going off something Mario Batali said, but then he toasts the rice until it turns opaque, after adding it to the sofrito and before adding liquid. That would probably lead to burst grains if the rice is boiled.

                      I'll try your parboiling tip, if it cuts the amount of time standing at the stove, stirring brown rice.

                      1. re: AsperGirl

                        My husband has been parboiling the brown rice for about 15 minutes and then making the risotto. Nice and creamy though it does have a texture more like barley than rice, and a very nutty flavor.

                        1. re: escondido123

                          Thanks for the response. I did try the parboiling and found the same... The flavor seems marvelously nutty. I think parboiling will become my preferred method for pilaf (which I generally like to put toasted nuts into), on account of the rice being more nutty and the rice being less sticky.

                          The risotto does seem to work, and the barley texture gave me an idea, that I then looked up, and yes there is an Italian risotto style dish that is made from barley, called orzotto. Here's Batali doing Orzotto al Porcini for an Aspen food festival: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDRBHe...

                        2. re: AsperGirl

                          the advice was from Mark Bittman (I can imagine him and Batali arguing over it!) and I wasn't too sure about it but I really wanted to switch to brown rice since I'm intolerant to white rice and I was very pleased when it worked. Like I said in the post I linked originally, for the first 10 mins or so I didn't think much would come of it but then the magic happened and the sauce got creamy as it should and the rice acquired that nice al-dente texture of good risotto.

                          1. re: peregrina

                            I tried the parboiling method, with some toasted grains and some untoasted grains.  The toasted gains did burst, and had an interesting grainy texture that made me wonder if I could make it into a great brown rice couscous if I rub it through a sieve. 

                            The untoasted grains didn't burst and seemed like regular rice.  There was a good amount of creamy starch that got thrown out in the parboiling water, tho.  The parboiled rice is no longer sticky, at all, and would make a great fried rice.  I can't wait to try it for making fried rice with less fat in the recipe!

                            The parboiling doesn't shorten the cooking time, because it takes time to parboil.  It really only shortens the proportion of time you have to stir the rice. 

                            I have not mastered Marcella Hazan's method of constant vigorous stirring of risotto over high heat at a lively boil, and I use the easy on the stirring approach ("Easy on the stirring"  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/02/din...)  So for me, there's not much of a benefit to parboiling if it dirties another pot.

                            Finally, I made some brown rice risotto my old way, without parboiling, and still prefer it, so I'll probably continue on that way.  I really liked the parboiled brown rice for other uses (making brown rice couscous and parboiling brown rice for pilaf and fried rice), so I'm really glad I tried out the parboiling. Thanks for the tip, I'll be using it more in the future.

                            1. re: AsperGirl

                              Farrotto is a risotto like dish made with farro, a partially polished (usually) wheat like grain.

                    2. I have been making a risotto-like rice with organic brown rice using my Fagor pressure cooker. I add more liquid/stock/wine than I normally would and it turns out creamy and wonderful. I cook for about 20 minutes once it's pressurized.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: monavano

                        @asperGirl, what ratio of stock/rice do you use for your brown rice risotto? Do you toast your rice first (a al Batali?), most of the brown rice recipes I found seem to do this.