Lidia Bastianich: The Science of Risotto; Science & Cooking Public Lecture Series 2017 | Summary and Q&A

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October 11, 2017
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Harvard University
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Lidia Bastianich: The Science of Risotto; Science & Cooking Public Lecture Series 2017

TL;DR

Renowned chef Lidia Bastianich demonstrates the technique and importance of cooking risotto, highlighting the significance of ingredients and flavors.

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Key Insights

  • 🧫 Risotto is a traditional Italian dish that requires specific techniques and precise ingredient timing to achieve the desired texture and flavor profile.
  • 🤾 The type of rice used, such as arborio or carnaroli, plays a crucial role in creating a creamy and al dente risotto.
  • 🍄 The addition of flavorings, such as mushrooms or vegetables, adds depth and complexity to the dish.
  • ❤️‍🩹 Mantecare, the process of adding butter and cheese at the end, helps create a velvety texture and enhances the overall flavor.

Transcript

DAVID WEITZ: So welcome, everybody. We have certain traditions in this lecture. If you haven't been here, I will teach you about our traditions. First of all, you know, these lectures are associated with a lecture series, a class at Harvard. It's a science and cooking class. And so we may see equations. And if we do, what do we do? [APPLAUSE] I see... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the traditional definition of cooking?

Cooking involves altering raw ingredients with heat, such as boiling, baking, roasting, or broiling, to prepare or make them fit to eat.

Q: What is the purpose of toasting the rice before adding the liquid?

Toasting the rice helps create a barrier around the grains, allowing them to absorb the liquid more slowly and cook evenly.

Q: Can you prepare risotto in advance?

While it is possible to toast the rice and add the wine in advance, the best results come from cooking risotto just before serving to ensure the perfect texture.

Q: Why is it important to add the flavorings at the right time during the cooking process?

Adding flavorings, such as mushrooms or vegetables, at different stages of cooking allows them to cook to the desired texture while infusing the risotto with their flavors.

Summary

In this video, David Weitz, Pia Sorensen, and Lidia Bastianich discuss the science and technique behind cooking risotto. Weitz talks about the traditions and quiz associated with the lecture series, while Sorensen ponders the definition of cooking and the amount of heat required to cook food. Bastianich then demonstrates how to make a mushroom risotto, discussing the different types of rice and flavorings that can be used. Throughout the video, the importance of temperature, timing, and flavoring in the cooking process is emphasized.

Questions & Answers

Q: Why does sparkling water taste different from normal water?

Sparkling water tastes different because it contains carbon dioxide, which makes it acidic. This acidity is what gives sparkling water its unique flavor compared to normal water. The carbon dioxide comes up from or through the water, making it acidic.

Q: What is the pH of sparkling water?

The pH of sparkling water is 4.5, which contributes to its acidic taste. All good foods are more likely to be acidic than basic or neutral.

Q: What is the definition of cooking?

Cooking is the process of altering raw ingredients with heat in order to prepare or make them ready for eating. It involves various techniques, such as boiling, baking, roasting, and broiling, to make food fit for consumption.

Q: How much heat is required to cook food?

The amount of heat required to cook food depends on factors such as the size and type of food. For example, larger foods require more heat, while smaller foods require less heat. Additionally, the specific heat of the food and the desired temperature also affect the amount of heat needed.

Q: What are the different types of rice used for making risotto?

The different types of rice used for making risotto include arborio, carnaroli, and vialone nano. These varieties are short-grain rice that have a high starch content, which is essential for creating the creamy texture of risotto.

Q: What kind of rice is best for making risotto?

The best rice for making risotto is a short-grain rice such as arborio, carnaroli, or vialone nano. These varieties have a higher starch content, which gives risotto its characteristic creaminess.

Q: Can risotto be made with different flavors?

Yes, risotto can be made with a variety of flavors. The base of the risotto is typically onions or shallots, but you can add different ingredients such as mushrooms, shrimp, or vegetables to create different flavors. The key is to add these flavorings at the appropriate time during the cooking process to ensure they are cooked properly.

Q: What is the ideal texture for risotto?

The ideal texture for risotto is al dente, which means the rice is thoroughly cooked but still has a slight resistance when bitten into. This texture is achieved by continuously stirring the risotto and gradually adding the liquid to coax out the starches while maintaining the shape of the rice grains.

Q: Can risotto be prepared in advance?

Risotto is best served immediately after it is prepared, as it has a creamy texture that can change if left for too long. While some preparation can be done in advance, such as toasting the rice and adding the wine, the final cooking and assembly of the risotto should be done just before serving.

Q: What is the significance of adding wine to risotto?

Adding wine to risotto helps to season the rice and infuse it with flavor. The alcohol in the wine evaporates during cooking, leaving behind the acidity and flavor components that enhance the overall taste of the risotto.

Takeaways

The key takeaways from this video include the importance of temperature, timing, and flavoring in the cooking process. Cooking is the process of altering raw ingredients with heat, and risotto is a specific technique of cooking rice that requires a continuous and controlled temperature to coax out the starches and create a creamy texture. Various flavors and ingredients can be added to risotto to create different versions, but the balance and timing of these additions is crucial. Overall, cooking is both a scientific and creative process that requires attention to detail and an understanding of the ingredients and techniques.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Renowned chef Lidia Bastianich shares her personal connection to food and her passion for cooking, specifically risotto.

  • She emphasizes the importance of ingredients, such as the type of rice used, to create the perfect risotto.

  • Lidia demonstrates the technique of cooking risotto, including the step-by-step process and the significance of adding flavorings at the right time.

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