Originally Posted by ironchef
I'm surprised the the Alton Brown die-hards haven't come out on this one. Has anyone seen his show on rice? Even he said you don't need to constantly stir it.
I can't believe I didn't mention that, ironchef!
I've seen so many great Italian TV cooks/chefs (Lidia Bastianich, Nick Stelino, Bibi Caggiano, Carlo Middione, and the Food Network Italian cooks) prepare risotto - and they all seem to agree ... the "traditional" way is to stir constantly, but you really don't have to for every stage - just "nearly" constantly for the first and final stages, and "very frequently" in between.
For example, in Biba Caggiano's book Trattoria Cooking
she "says" to stir constantly - that's the "traditional" or "classic" method. On TV she said when her husband is in the kitchen helping her cook the risotto that is what he does because that is the way his grandmother taught him. But, she mentioned you don't have to stir constantly - they don't in the restaurant, as you noted. But, then again, in a restaurant you're not preparing risotto from scratch one order at a time ... see Harold MeGee's On Food and Cooking
- revised edition - bottom of page 475 - "Risotto: Turning Rice into Its Own Sauce".
It appears, and makes sense to me, that you want to stir nearly constantly (every 5-15 seconds) during the early stages - when you first add the rice to the oil to evenly coat and toast (fry) it, when you add the wine as it reduces, and after the first addition of the stock. After that, you can settle back and just stir frequently (every 1-3 minutes) until the final stage (last one or two additions of stock) when the rice is nearly done and the "sauce" is nice and thick (as you noted to prevent burning and sticking).
To paraphrase Biba - you don't need to be intimidated by risotto - but you do need to make it a couple of times to get the hang of it. To quote Biba, "It is only through trial and error that we become accomplished cooks." My first risotto was nothing like it is today. Okay, make that the first "few" ...