Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Jun 29, 2010 05:20 PM

Use arborio rice and really good home made chicken stock for risotto? I don't.

I was taught to use $3.00 per pound arborrio rice and good gelatinous home made chicken stock to make risotto. Stirring in 1 ladle of chicken stock at a time, the starch from the rice makes it all creamy. It's great.

One day I made risotto for my wife and she said she preferred the standard long grain rice. She said she could taste a difference. Well, I really couldn't taste much difference but my wife is my broker. You know, E.F Mama, when she talks you listen?

Anyway, I tried making risotto with regular long grain enriched rice using the same technique as with risotto, adding stock 1 ladle at a time and stirring. Well, there was plenty of starch in the 79 cents a pound long grain. It got all creamy just like standard risotto and tasted fine.

Finally, there came a day when I wanted to make risotto but didn't have any of my good chicken stock available so I used a carton of low sodium chicken stock and augmented it with chicken base. Chicken base makes the relatively tasteless carton stock taste like chicken.

The risotto turned out great. In fact, it seemed better than when I used my good stock. It seems chicken base has even more chicken taste than my good stock. I didn't need the gelatinous mouth feel from my good stock because of the starch.

Now when I make risotto, I use long grain rice and canned or carton low sodium stock augmented with chicken base even though I have arborrio in the pantry and I have good stock in the freezer. I recommend you do too.

Now, before you criticize me too harshly, try it yourself. I can't tell the difference, taste wise. If you can use the cheaper ingredients with good effect, why not?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I wonder if part of what is driving your experience is that the canned stock plus chicken base yields a saltier (and hence more savory) result; chicken base also generally has MSG and MSG-like stuff (hydrolyzed proteins), which also probably help. Would be interested to see if you added an equivalent amount of salt and some MSG to your homemade stock. Of course, if you like your easy-peasy recipe as it is, why bother? Still, always nice to understand what is going on....

    7 Replies
    1. re: zamorski

      Without a doubt, chicken base is certainly salty. It even made the overall dish slightly saltier than I would have if I had made the dish with regular stock. I try not to add too much salt to my home made stock and I defat it which is where most of the salt is. When I make risotto with chicken base, I don't add salt at all because chicken base is so salty.

      However, one of the main advantages of home made stock is the gelatin and the luxurious mouth feel that imparts. With the starch in risotto, there is no need for the gelatin so why waste your good stock?

      I like to play scientist but I doubt that i will go back and try adding salt and msg to my stock to test your theory. It is a good point though.

      1. re: Hank Hanover

        That's interesting. I think you're very brave for posting about it on a food site :-)

        1. re: jvanderh

          Apparently Marcella Hazan only uses broth not stock in her risotto and she is very highly thought of on chowhound. Apparently she does for a different reason. According to the another thread here.

          She doesn't want a super chickeny taste in her risotto and I guess I can see that if you are adding asparagus or some other veggies and don't want to overpower the veggies. Then the chicken flavor would definitely take a back seat. I, however want the chicken flavor to be the star.

          I am going to keep that in mind though if I try a different risotto and want a different flavor.

          I think it sort of proves my point about the good stock though. With the starch, you don't need the gelatin associated with a good stock.

        2. re: Hank Hanover

          In case you are not aware, Better Than Bouillon makes both a regular and a reduced sodium chicken base but most supermarkets don't carry the lower sodium one. It's still pretty salty but IME is a better choice when the broth is going to be reduced. It is available online.

          1. re: greygarious

            Yes "Better than Bouillon" is a good product, and available in many bases, clam to pork etc. The full line is now at Publix.

            1. re: greygarious

              I use it - and dilute it way more than they say to.

            2. re: Hank Hanover

              I would never add salt to my glorious stock (made from chicken feet and backs). I'm wondering why you do please.

          2. Hank you are not alone... I made risotto from short grain rice (about 25% of the price of arborio) and chicken stock cubes when I was a student, and liked the result better than most of what I later ate in restaurants.

            Sure, the proper way is, well, the proper way, and the results are excellent. I often make stock for other uses. But for family meals? - Hank, you and I can do it our way! Cheaper and with easy, punchy flavour!

            I think you are correct when you say that you can dispense with the gelatin when the rice imparts so much starch.

            And the cherry on top is that I don't use the ladle and stir technique, either - the liquids go into the rice in two batches. I do stir frequently, however, and monitor the rice for the correct degree of 'done-ness'.

            The results are very good, definitely in keeping with the style of classical risotto despite their dubious origins.

            1. I dont really make risotto so often but I like to cook rice with chicken or veggie stock and maybe starting of by frying an onion and then the rice but then I put all the stock in and let it cook, and it turns out great every time :) and i dont know if i should confess this but i normaly use stock cubes or fond.. organic and msg free..

              1. The thing about traditional Italian risotto is the rich creamy finish the dish has. Chicken broth is used, short grain rice, white wine, and at the end butter and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. That's it. Risotto. Anything else is simply cooked rice, delicious in it's own right for sure. Call what you make anything at all, but don't call it risotto.

                34 Replies
                1. re: Gio

                  The use of long grain rice and strongly flavored base and canned broth; is not a bad combination; but it is more like a Cuban Chicken and Rice, not a true Risotto. I prefer the Carnaroli rice and a homemade broth of oven browned, carrot, celery, beef bones,and raw whole chicken and sauted onions added to complete the broth.

                  1. re: ospreycove

                    We often cook Basmati or Jasmine rice in chicken broth. Very nice it is too. It's especially tasty along side steamed broccoli or roasted asparagus. Makes a wonderful pilaf as well, with all the right ingredients.

                  2. re: Gio

                    I'm not sure I would call chicken and rice risotto but I would if I cooked it using the same techniques and components. Isn't chili a stew, shepherd's pie a stew under mashed potatoes, gazpacho a soup?

                    Polenta looks a lot like what my grandma called corn meal mush.

                    Is it still filet mignon if I broil it or pan fry it with a pan sauce? How about if I sear it and cook it to medium rare in a sous vide tank?

                    We aren't contestants on "chopped" and we don't have to get a self anointed chef to agree with our terminology.

                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                      >>"we don't have to get a self anointed chef to agree with our terminology"<<

                      No, but unless the parties to a conversation share an understanding of what words mean, communication is impossible. If you want to start describing anything that's red as being "green" and vice-versa, nobody can stop you. But it sure makes it harder to talk about when tomatoes are ready to eat.

                      Risotto is by definition made with short-grained rice. Arborio, carnaroli, and vialone nano are traditional, but sushi rice works just fine, too. You might even stretch the definition to include something made with a medium-grain rice like Calrose.

                      But a dish made with long-grain rice has a fundamentally different texture than one made with the short-grain stuff. Because the texture is so different, the name of the dish is different, too - it's no longer risotto, it's pilaf.

                      Of course, you should feel free to substitute long-grain rice for short-grain rice and call dishes made with one by the name of similar dishes made with the other. Maybe you can even get the billion-plus people who eat rice on a daily basis to discard the absurd distinction between the indica and japonica varieties and agree with you that they're interchangeable. Or not...

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        Once you make your risotto with onions and wine and parmesan cheese and a flavorful stock or broth, I doubt very much if you are going to taste any difference in much of any rice.

                        Rice is fairly mild. Some may be so bold as to say it is bland which is why it needs all those very strong flavors. Although some Japanese friends of mine would tell you that rice didn't need any flavoring at all.

                        The texture may even be different although my uneducated palette couldn't tell.

                        Yes you will see a difference. The grains are longer and so you can convince yourself that you taste a difference.

                        I have tried it both ways. Have you?

                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                          "you can convince yourself that you taste a difference"

                          Um, no, there's a difference. A real, measureable difference. Researchers use something called a "texturometer" to quantify it.

                          There's plenty of scientific research out there that analyzes the roles of things like amylose levels, gelatinization ratios, and starch content to figure out **why** short-grain rice cooks up softer and stickier than long-grain. But there's no dispute that it does.

                          Of course, you're free to try to convince yourself that despite the data there **isn't** a difference. Heck, you've apparently convinced yourself that onions and shallots are interchangeable too.

                          So knock yourself out. But seriously - don't expect people who actually know anything about food to agree with you.

                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                            I made risotto once with Trader Joe's generic Arborio and good home-made stock. The result was wrong, texture and flavor wise. Since this was a meal for a dear friend going through chemo, we wanted it to be as good as we knew how to make it, so we started over again, this time with good quality Arborio. It turned out "right." I don't know where Trader Joe's was sourcing their imitation arborio, but something about the starch levels, polish, or other parameters wasn't the way it should be, and we were 100% convinced the rice was at fault, not our technique, as we'd made risotto countless times, always the same way. Our other ingredients (stock, cheese) were identical.

                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                              Hank Hanover and Alan Barnes,

                              It seems to me we have an impasse here. Hank is saying (I think), "Hey, I've found a way to make risotto with cheaper ingredients. It tastes exactly the same as traditional risotto." Alan Barnes is saying, "You can't call it risotto because it's not made with the right ingredients."

                              So Hank is defining risotto by taste and Alan is defining risotto by ingredients. This dispute could not be resolved unless Alan made "risotto" Hank's way to see if it tastes the same. A blind taste test would probably be necessary . . .

                              However, even if Alan found that Hank's technique produced a food that tasted identical to traditional risotto, I doubt that Alan would consider the result to be risotto because it wasn't made with arborio rice.

                              Personally, Hank, I'm skeptical because I just can't believe that soup base is going to yield the same sort of flavor as homemade chicken stock, but I am looking forward to trying your technique to see.

                              1. re: gfr1111

                                Actually, I believe AB's argument is based more on texture than ingredient. You may make a risotto with long-grain rice that TASTES like risotto, but it's just not going to FEEL like risotto. And I have to agree - while I'm not too fussy about the broth/stock portion (in my house with its limited storage/freezer space, BTB gets used a LOT), the thought of those long, skinny, pointy grains just doesn't quite compute. The fat, roly-poly quality of the rice is part of what makes it so wonderful, not just the, I think I need a moment...

                                1. re: Wahooty

                                  Risotto is defined by:
                                  -- Specific rice flavor
                                  -- Caramelized rice flavors, from the initial rice cooking, before the “ri-” (second) cooking of risotto
                                  -- Rice toothsomeness, resistance, from 1) rice shape, 2) inherent structure, and 3) cooking method
                                  --“Gravy,” creaminess, from the rice starch (before any other ingredients are added)
                                  -- Glutinous, gelantinous and sticky mouthfeel qualities.

                                  Risotto rices and long-grain rice have distinct but subtle flavor differences. Risotto prep methods
                                  augment those differences (caramelizing starches during the initial cooking, in fat).

                                  The different texture, resistance and toothsomeness of arborio rice (and its cousins) and long-grain "bite" found is due to a defect in the arborio called chalk": "During maturation, the starch structures at the grain's core deform, making for a firm, toothy center when cooked.”* .

                                  Difference in amylase and amylopectin between the two types of rices mean a difference in glutinous and gelatinous qualities. Risotto rices form their own “gravy,” and create a “creamy” texture. Long-grain rices don’t. Combine the difference in risotto rice’s glutinous and gelatinous qualities with a difference in stock’s gelatinous properties and you have an entirely different “mouthfeel," sense of lingering flavor and textural satiety.

                                  The glory of risotto is in the details. Add up the many tiny differences between risotto rices and long-grain and those differences create a much larger difference.

                                  *From America’s Test Kitchen:
                                  “We made our Parmesan risotto for this test with four types of rice: standard long grain, converted par-cooked long grain, regular medium grain (we chose Goya brand from the supermarket), and short grain (sushi-style rice). The two long-grained varieties bombed, turning mushy and lacking the creaminess essential to risotto. The par-boiled rice—Uncle Ben's, in this case—also had the jarring, unmistakable flavor of pre-cooked rice. Medium- and short-grain rice fared much better, earning passing grades from most tasters, who agreed that these batches possessed all the creaminess of risotto made with Arborio, though not its al dente bite. So the long and short of it? If you're in a pinch and can't find Arborio, look for medium- or short-grain rice for an acceptable—but not perfect—batch of risotto. But for the best risotto, choose one of our recommended brands of Arborio rice.”

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    the word "toothsome" is being used more and more frequently to mean what maria is implying here. but that is not the correct definition. i guess eventually, this intended meaning will take over the actual meaning to supplant it in dictionaries, too.

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      "Al dente-ness" isn't as toothsome of a word.

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        thanks, alkapal. I did look up toothsome before I wrote. Merriam-Webster's second definition refers to "pleasing texture":

                                      2. re: maria lorraine

                                        This is interesting--thanks. I think it's funny that they even tried Uncle Ben's par boiled rice in the test. The result for it seems to be a given.

                            2. re: Gio

                              Gio, have you tried Kokuho Rose rice cooked in the manner of risotto? It is similar to the rices of Italy, southern France and Spain.

                              1. re: Father Kitchen

                                No I haven't Father Kitchen. I understand it's a sushi rice. Can't decide if it's a new varietal from California or an heirloom rice from Japan. Have you used it for risotto? If it's a medium grain rice it should work.

                                1. re: Gio

                                  Kohuko Rose is an old (1940s?) California-grown medium-grain rice. Good stuff, although for risotto I prefer short-grain like Tamanishiki (Koshihikari x Yumegokochi, also grown in California).

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    So, use Japanese rice for risotto....

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      All risotto is made with Japanese rice. The traditional rices of Italy are varieties of Oryza sativa L. japonica - that's Latin for "Japanese rice."

                                      I'd say that short-grain sushi rice and Vialone Nano are more similar to each other than either is to Arborio or Carnaroli. And any of them can make a perfectly serviceable risotto.

                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                        Good to know, Alan. I wish I had paid more attention to Sam when he talked rice. I do know horticultural Latin so can appreciate your nomenclature.

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          I should have read all the new posts before answering you Gio. I was thinking of Kokuho Rose's similarity to Vialone Nano. But, Alan, where can I find Tamanshiki rice?

                                          1. re: Father Kitchen

                                            It's one of the more popular short-grain rices grown in California. At least around here, pretty much every Japanese market carries it, as do most places that stock a good variety of Japaneses groceries.

                                        2. re: alanbarnes

                                          How about Valencia short grain rice? I can get 12 oz bags for just over a dollar. I use this as anternative to Japanese sushi rice and Italian Arborio rice with good results.

                                    2. re: Gio

                                      Gio, it is an heirloom rice from Japan according to the growers, who say it works well for risotto. The Mediterranean rices are all japonica types. Here's where we need Sam. I would think it is very similar to descriptions I have read of some of the Venetian rice types. The arborio I have seen is a bit larger. But the cooking characteristics are similar. It is the best tasting rice I know, though Sam preferred a rice from the Thai Cambodia border a bit more than this. But I haven't tried risotto with it. Maybe I will next Saturday. Last Saturday, I used in pilaf and then got lazy and put some browned chicken in the same pot and added a bit more broth half way through the cooking. It was a lot like risotto, but not quite the same.

                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                        It seems that Kohuko Rose is a California invention that was bred from Japanese varieties. According to Koda Farms, which owns the name, "a rice-breeding program was established at the [Dos Palos, California] farm that resulted in a unique variety of rice that Keisaburo named Kokuho Rose™. In 1963, Kokuho Rose™ was introduced to the domestic market as the first premium 'medium' grain rice. Unique in appearance as well as flavor, Kokuho Rose quickly became established as the favorite of Japanese Americans throughout the country."

                                  2. re: Gio

                                    i had risotto in italy w/ bone marrow and saffron. risotto ala milenese.

                                    i've seen risotto, in italy, with spring peas, or mushrooms.

                                    all real authentic risotto.

                                    1. re: thew

                                      Oh yes, Thew. I too have had real risottos with various additions, including lobster. Loved that! In my original statement up thread I was refering to a basic risotto.

                                      Viva risotto. But I do love a great tasting pilaf too.

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        When would you add the lobster, Joe? Just before serving? Sounds SO divine.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          What timing! Not half an hour ago I received in the mail Jasper White's "Lobster t Home"--a recommendation of rubee's that I stumbled upon when looking for something else. The first recipe I intended to turn to was the risotto since I have both lobster stock and lobster remouillage in the freezer. White says the cooked, room temperature lobster meat should be stirred in just before the pan is removed from the heat.

                                          He has a variation on the basic recipe that includes dried porcini! I can hardly stand it!

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            Oh wow. I really need to check out your freezer :) Doesn't that sound good?

                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              Joan.. you're going to Love that Jasper White book. I've had it for a few years now and everthing we've made has been marvelous. I'm lucky enough to live relatively close to his Boston/Cambridge restaurants, Many happy memories chowing down with Himself in the House.

                                              1. re: Gio

                                                I haven't really had a chance to sit down with it yet (I received "Pig: King of the Southern Table" by James Villas the day before and haven't been able to tear myself away from it.) I have to keep reminding myself that lobster, one of my all-time favorite foods, is often less expensive these days than many other protein choices. When I saw the Jasper White (whose timing I've always used for cooking lobster) book used/almost new for not much more than the shipping cost, I jumped. So happy to hear you've had such good success with it.

                                            2. re: c oliver

                                              CO... didn't make the risotto with lobster but had it at a Boston restaurant. Not Jasper White's unfortunately. But, if I were making risotto with lobster I would steam the lobster first.,till just done. Let cool enough to handle, take the meat out of the tail and claws....saving the rest for another dish. I would make the risotto as usual, Chop (ever so gently) the lobster meat into bite sized pieces and add to the risotto. including any juices. at the very end. Heat through, taste, adjust seasoning and serve.

                                              1. re: Gio

                                                What's especially appealing to me about this is that you wouldn't have to have a ginormous amount of lobster. So serving six would be affordable. Thanks, kiddo.

                                      2. Yes to arborio; no to homemade stock. I'll usually go with Kitchen Basics.

                                        6 Replies
                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Cost vs. benefits. Making homemade stock takes ca. 3 hrs. and I don't think it is so superior to Kitchen Basics that it will make a significant difference in the risotto. Now if I'm making a chicken stock-based soup, that's a different story.

                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                              I don't make stock to save money. I make it because it is superior to anything out of a can or a box. The last batch I made took about 18 hours and I have more than a gallon and plan to make more. Oh, btw, there was no effort at all. I learn from some CHs and don't learn from some others. But the late Sam Fujisaka taught me this and when he spoke I paid attention.

                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                  The time was completely unattended. Just a matter of putting the "parts" in the pot, adding water and bringing to a boil. Then into the slow oven it went for 18 hours. I couldn't have opened a gallon's worth of canned broth in that amount of time. To me it's no price to pay for a vastly superior product. That why I grind my own beef,pork and turkey. Superior product.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    Well at least you're willing to countenance the notion of superiority. That puts you a couple of intelligence classifications above most postmodern folk.