Everyone loves a rich, creamy risotto. But big, pricey bags of special arborio and carnaroli rice take up precious pantry space, and unless you're making enough risotto for an army, you're going to have leftover grains. So we asked a panel of pro chefs from around the country for other ways to make your way through your risotto rice—beyond risotto.
Chef Anthony Russo is the founder of Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen and Russo's New York Pizzeria in Houston. His Italian-inspired menus in each of his restaurants reflect his heritage.
I make fish cakes with risotto rice. I'll take leftover salmon and cooked short-grain rice, season it with salt and pepper, add Parmesan cheese, and some eggs, mix it, form it into small patties, and fry it up on both sides. It's sorta like a crab cake, but the rice is the star. The cakes taste really good at room temperature, so it's a great takeaway snack. You could do it with shrimp—any seafood goes really well with it—or you could use vegetables like zucchini or squash instead of fish. You just need the Parmesan and eggs to bind it all together.
Breading for Fish
Coby Lee Ming, the executive chef at Harvest restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, sits on the chef advisory board of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, and she helped earn Harvest a place as semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation's "Best New Restaurant in America."
A friend of mine showed me a way to make a crust with rice. You take raw arborio rice, buzz it in your coffee or spice grinder as fine as you can get it, and season it with whatever seasonings you like. Then you take a really nice piece of fish, like snapper or something else that's sturdy and meaty yet flaky—that perfect kind of fish. Do a basic flour and egg wash and dredge, then coat the fish in the seasoned rice. Then give it the fish pan-sear and finish it in the oven. The crust gives you the flavor of toasted rice as if you were making risotto—that warm, toasty smell and flavor. It completely blew my mind the first time I had it.
John Delpha runs Rosebud American Kitchen & Bar, where he serves regional American comfort food with global touches. He puts his competition barbecue experience to work teaching twice-annual whole hog cooking classes at Murphysboro's 17th Street Barbecue.
I overcook risotto and then turn it into croquettes. Add some cubes of ham and mozzarella, then cook it down to reduce out some water, chill it, roll it into balls, roll it in flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs, and then fry the balls and use them for hors d'oeuvres. Or add chunks of red beets and blue cheese, so when you fry it the blue cheese oozes through the beets.
Formerly of Momofuku Noodle Bar and French Louie, Ian Alvarez recently opened Bara in New York City's East Village, where he blends the culinary and atmospheric influences of a French wine bar with a Japanese izakaya.
Soubise is a classic sauce traditionally made of onions cooked in butter and béchamel, mixed together. Another version is that sauce plus cooked rice. As time has gone on people have lightened French dishes up, and rice is something that most restaurants add to soubise. The rice adds a shiny, glutinous quality to the sauce, with less fat. We make it with onions and fennel, then add risotto or sushi rice that we cook in vegetable stock and sake. We make it thick as a purée, but you could use it as a sauce to drizzle over anything. It's creamy and rich, so it could take the place of a béchamel or cream sauce for any dish you'd apply those to. It's awesome with fish or asparagus—anything that would hold up to a cream sauce. It has a beautiful floral aroma from the onions and the rice gives it a hearty, starchy quality. I use it almost everywhere I work because it works so well.
Chef Matthew Tropeano spent eight years at the famed New York restaurant La Grenouille, receiving a three-star rating from the New York Times during his tenure as executive chef before helming the kitchen at Cape Cod's Pain D'Avignon.
I've always used risotto rice instead of flour with lobster bisque. Cook lobster shells and vegetables together, and while that's going, add some risotto rice. It will overcook and release some starch. Strain out the shells and rice, and the liquid ends up having the consistency of a bisque.
Extra-Creamy Rice Pudding
Pastry chef Miroslav Uskokovic worked under Jean-Georges Chef Joe Murphy (and former chef Johnny Iuzzini) before creating his own menus at George Mendes' Aldea and, currently, at Union Square Hospitality Group's Gramercy Tavern.
We have a vanilla rice pudding on the menu that comes with different preparations of orange, like blood orange jam, blood orange sorbet, fresh segments of orange, puffed rice, and basil oil. The rice pudding is obviously the main component.
Rice pudding is one of my favorite desserts, and it took me almost three years to perfect this recipe. I tried basmati, jasmine, and medium and short grains. I found the short grains to work best because they have higher starch contents, and their shape holds better than long grain rice, which tends to fall apart more. When you want a little extra aroma I'd add some basmati rice, but now the rice I source has such a nice aroma so I don't need to add that anymore. Rice pudding is basically just a sweet risotto anyway.
Baked Risotto Cake
Pastry chef Katie Meddis started her culinary career as a teenager, finding work in the kitchens of Aurora, Magnolia and Blossom, and Chez Panisse before opening Rose's Meat Market and Sweet Shop in Durham, NC with her butcher-chef-husband Justin. There she makes innovative but comforting pastries and confections for Durham's bubbling food community.
I just started working with risotto rice. We closed for a week and went to Bologna, and they have a Bolognese spice cake—a baked rice pudding with candied citrus and sometimes chocolate. It's a classic with many variations. So I just started working with it to have another gluten-free option in the shop. You basically make a rice pudding with a short-grained rice, and then fold in all kinds of good stuff before baking, with a bit more eggs to fortify it. It's delicious.