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Cooking a risotto takes a fair amount of attention and work, adding stock a ladle at a time with almost constant stirring. The chemical process behind this makes sense to me. Are there any ways to short cut this process though? I'd like to be able to make a risotto with a little less attention. I'm wondering if some hybrid technique of early attention and later just adding liquid and letting it boil (or maybe the reverse) might provide a similar result with less work.

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I know I know, but it's risotto, if it's not made with love, tenderness, and care, it's just not risotto anymore –  dassouki Aug 11 '10 at 14:57
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My mother loves her pot-stirrer for ease of risotto-making (something like this: amazon.com/StirChef-Saucepan-Stirrer/dp/B0000TPBYG). It won't lessen the time it takes to make risotto, but it might help free you up some. –  Iuls Aug 11 '10 at 15:04
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9 Answers

Actually I've found that constant stirring has little to no affect on the final product. You can simply stir rigorously at the last minute and achieve similar results. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself and you'll see.

Another trick is pre-cooking your rice. Just follow a standard risotto recipe but stop cooking the rice about half way through the process (about 10 minutes in or just before aldente). Strain the stock from the rice and pour it out onto a baking sheet to cool quickly. You can refrigerate it for up to a day. To finish it, just pick up where you left off and - presto - you've just cut out half the cooking time.

Cheers!

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I generally agree with this. I stir more than Derek, but certainly not constantly. Maybe 20 seconds out of every 3 minutes. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Aug 11 '10 at 17:24
    
Technically, you've just spread the cooking time over two days in your second case... –  yossarian Aug 11 '10 at 17:26
    
I assumed you were preparing it for guests or diners. Believe me, they will think you're a magician. Other than that there is no really "easy" way to shortcut the process. The rice has to cook. Plain and simple. The only other thing I can think of is to cover the rice with stock and chuck it in the microwave for a few minutes before completing it the traditional way. –  Derek Hunziker Aug 11 '10 at 17:37
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Looks like the closest you can get is to add lots of cheese and butter (for the cream) and stir less often. This recipe follows that trick, using the lid of your pot unlike a traditional risotto.

If you have a pressure cooker, you can also coopt it to do some of the work for you, as seen in this recipe. The trick there as suggested by many similar pressure cooker risotto recipes appears to be to start with high pressure and quickly release steam.

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Mark Bittman thinks it can be done more easily, see here. It comes with a video.

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so do you think the trick is the additional fat? The amount of broth? If I wanted to try and translate it to another kind of risotto - say a corn risotto appropriate for this time of summer (at my latitude, at least), it seems like it ought to work, but I'm curious. –  justkt Aug 11 '10 at 16:56
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If you Google for "risotto oven baked" you can get a lot of recipes and comments. The general consensus is that it's not quite as creamy as the constantly stirred stove top version, but that most people would never know it wasn't made on the stove top if you don't tell them.

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This gets my vote as the most "set it and forget it" method, but it really doesn't come out like proper risotto in my experience. It's nice, and easy, but not proper. –  bikeboy389 Nov 13 '10 at 17:48
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Although this isn't exactly a "cheat," it can help expedite the making of the risotto. You par-boil the rice, so it is partially ready when it is time to actually cook it.

Ever wonder how they get the risotto to cook so fast on shows like "Hell's Kitchen?" Par- boiling.

Here's a link to how it's done: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/601758

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There is one recipe for risotto that doesn't require that much attention: "Risotto alla pilota". Basically you boil the rice in salted water and then stir-fry it with a particular shredded Italian sausage meat (called "pesto", but it's not that pesto). You then add Grana or Parmigiano.

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If cheating like this were really possible, people'd be doing it that way. That said: I've tried to shortcut risotto myself. It's possible: make the batches of liquid larger and you'll still get a tasty rice dish. It just won't be as good as it would have been otherwise.

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You don't have to stir "almost constantly" and you can add the liquid in larger amounts, I guess, for a less perfect risotto, for less effort. But I still think you should add liquid evenly throughout the process.

And lots of butter stirred in at the end, once it's off the heat, is the quick and easy way to a creamy finish.

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If you add the right amount of liquid after the sauteeing, you can leave it alone until it has mostly cooked down. At that point, make sure it hasn't stuck.

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