Henry Hsieh畢業自紐約大學，以及畢業自美國紐約International Culinary Center及義大利帕瑪ALMA餐飲學校，是米其林一星餐酒館Longtail與原木柴燒餐廳Wildwood Live Fire Cuisine的營運總監。不過他總是說「叫我Your friend at Longtail就好」，Henry熱愛美食更愛分享美食，對餐飲業有獨到的觀察，他現在要以幽默風趣與富文化視角的專欄文字來分享他對美食與餐飲的所見經歷。
TEXT HENRY HSEIH
Excuse me but risotto is not rice. It is a rice dish cooked in a very specific way, with Italian rice. We must be clear about this because when you see a risotto on a menu and it comes out looking like xifan , you are having xifan.
There was one thing that I had set out to perfect during my time in Parma, and that was to make risotto. I felt, with western cooking I am a student and that’s all right, but with rice, come on, look at the color my hair. This is something I know better than anyone. I have been eating rice before I could walk! And yes, I have had what is supposedly Italian risotto before: rice, cooked with water and add whatever you felt like, usually cheese or if you are feeling fancy some seafood. Spoon it in a bowl, and Bobs your uncle! Negative.
I remember doing just that while making a risotto and hey, I thought it was pretty good: thick, chunky, soft and piled into a little mountain. SEND IT BACK! Every word I have just used to describe what I thought was a risotto was absolutely wrong. Apparently I’ve been having and cooking incorrect risotto my entire life. It is not fried rice, dry and loose. It is not xifan, thick and gloopy. It certainly isn’t something I available in Asian cuisine. A plate of risotto is meant to be eaten on its own, it isn’t a dish to go with other things. Unlike in Asia, where rice accompanies other dishes, a risotto does not. A plate of risotto is a perfect amalgamation of ingredients that come together with constant and careful attention. Risotto is not made from a pot of water or a rice cooker – goodness gracious no!
The first time I cooked a proper risotto was before the first time I actually had a proper risotto. So I had to figure it out and use a bit of imagination. I started with Arborio rice. A typical kind of Italian rice, which I later found out was slightly more suitable for vegetable or less creamy risottos, its cousin Cannaroli was the better candidate, as it carried more starch and absorbed more liquid. The typical procedure of making a risotto is as follows:
1) Make a soffrito of butter and diced onions.
2) Toast the rice and pour in the wine
3) Ladle in only broth and let the rice drink
4) When ready, mix in your other ingredients
5) Serve only on a plate, not a bowl
Well, that seems simple enough doesn’t it? First thing that happened to me was getting my hand slapped because I went ahead and tried to wash the rice! Boy was that a mistake. Seriously though, when was the last time you had rice and didn’t wash it?! This is not rice people; this is risotto. The very essence of risotto is to keep all the qualities in the full grain of rice including the beautiful starch that will contribute to the creaminess when it is done. So remember the starch is your friend, DO NOT wash the rice. The rice in fact, should never even touch water. There is, ‘no put your index in and leave one section of your finger under the water’ in an Italian risotto!
The flavor profile and texture of a proper risotto comes from mainly the ingredients, the creaminess, and the flavor of the rice itself but also the acidity. It is the acidity that balances all the other flavors. The acidity comes from the onions and the wine. Typically white wine is used to give a crisp dryness that blends in nicer with the other ingredients, and acts as a backdrop for the other flavors. Once the alcohol has evaporated, add the kind of broth that you prefer, whether it is chicken stock, fish stock, or vegetable stock. So for this dish I had used chicken stock, parmigiano cheese and butter as the only ingredients, a typical typical dish – Risotto alla Parmigiana. It was tasty, it was cheesy, and I was quite proud. However, I was soon to learn that this was merely the tip of the iceberg.
一盤義大利燉飯的風味跟口感，主要來自於用料與米本身的、黏稠度與風味。酸度也會有影響，酸度能均衡其他所有的風味，酸度最主要來自於洋蔥與葡萄酒。一般來說會用白葡萄酒來增添清爽與澀的口感，而且白葡萄酒與其他配料的搭配性也相當好，甚至能作為其他風味的基底。待酒精蒸發後，便可以加入雞湯、魚湯、蔬菜湯等等你想要的高湯。我做的這道是用雞湯，用料只有帕馬森起司與奶油，名稱也相當本格派就叫「帕瑪森燉飯」（Risotto alla Parmigiana）。好吃，起司感綿密，我挺滿意的，但我後來才知道我看到的只是冰山的一角，藏在冰山底下的還有更多我不知道的烹飪技巧。
The very first restaurant I had a proper plate of risotto, I was in Milan in a restaurant called Giannino, famous equally for its food, and for the footballers and their model girlfriends that frequented. It definitely was a fun atmosphere, every time it was someone’s birthday instead of singing the song, the staff brings out a slice of cake with a sparkler and Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance would start blasting from the speakers. But I digress. The first thing that caught my attention on the menu was the risotto, Risotto al mirtilli e caprino. If I had remembered my Italian fruit names correctly, mirtilli are blueberries. What on earth are blueberries doing in a risotto with goat’s milk cheese? Even with Gaga in the background, I was zoned in, undistracted. Making sure I had not translated it wrong – I had to have it. When the dish came, it was nothing like what I had imagined. I was given only a spoon, but more of a fish spoon with a very low one-sided curve, just deep enough to scrape a layer of rice and not a scoop. The risotto was white with a single blueberry in the center. It was like a blanket of snow. It was not piled high like a mountain like fried rice, but it was silky and luscious like a glaze. It was one of the most elegant dishes I had ever seen quite honestly. I went in for it. There was a layer of blueberry sauce, which carpeted the base of the plate. In a moment, the risotto became a white canvas white with streaks of purplish blue running across the plate like something right out of the Tate.
我第一次吃到對的燉飯是在米蘭，餐廳名稱叫Giannino，以東西好吃以及足球員愛帶模特兒女友光顧聞名。Giannino的氣氛相當歡樂，只要有人在餐廳裡過生日，服務生不是用唱生日快樂歌幫你慶祝，而是端出一片蛋糕跟仙女棒，以及用喇叭播放Lady Gaga的〈Bad Romance〉轟炸你。好，我離題了，Giannino第一件吸引我注意的是菜單上有道菜名字叫「藍莓羊奶起司燉飯」（Risotto al mirtilli e caprino）。如果我的義大利文水果名稱沒記錯的話， mirtilli就是藍莓，天底下哪有藍莓搭燉飯還搭羊奶起司這種事？就算店內Lady Gaga的音樂放到震耳欲聾，一點也無損我對這道燉飯的專注度，「我真的沒翻譯錯嗎？就是它了，我要點它。」上桌後，跟我想的一點都不一樣，附上的只有一個小湯匙，湯匙很淺只夠挖薄薄的一層飯而無法挖一大口。藍莓山羊起司燉飯是完完全全白色的，唯獨只有在飯的中間放一個藍莓。看起來就像一片白雪，也沒有像炒飯那樣堆的像小山丘高高的。看過去就像是絲綢般光滑，油亮亮的相當耀眼。老實說，這是我見過最優雅的料理之一。引起我興趣了，我發現在盤子底部竟然鋪有一層藍莓醬，剎那間，我眼前這盤燉飯猶如一張雪白的畫布，上面像是有一道道紫藍色線條劃過，看起來就像是一件泰特美術館裡的藝術品。
I was awestruck. Blueberry and goat cheese were such complimentary flavors, the salty cheese balanced by the sweet acidity of the fruit. And the rice, the rice was perfectly al dente, not the kind of uncooked hardness or extreme fluffy exterior, which only results when you precook the rice. You could taste each grain of rice as it full of flavor from the cheese and broth. It has a beautiful velvety sheen that coats every grain without separation. It is a difficult thing to describe but when you have seen and tasted it, you cannot go back.
So here I am at school in Italy, and it is the first time I am watching risotto being made in front of me. Chef Bruno is making Risotto alla Milanese, the quintessential dish in Milanese cuisine. Risotto alla Milanese is simple and elegant: parmigiano cheese, butter, and saffron. The history behind this dish is that Milan was quite a rich city-state and full of spices, and saffron is the most expensive spice by weight. Thus saffron would be added to the dish to not only show their prosperity, but also to give the risotto a beautiful golden hue, as if to say, look, we Milanese eat gold! This time we used vialone nano rice. This is a particular kind of rice grown exclusively in the Verona region of Veneto, and coincidentally the home of Romeo and Juliet. The grains are a bit shorter and little rounder. It is crossbred with a Japanese variety of rice called Oryza sativa. This kind of rice has incredible contents of starch. The high amylose content, allows the rice to keep its shape and hold its al dente texture without being fluffy or soft but at the same time absorb a ton of flavor.
好，現在來談我在ALMA餐飲學校的故事，我也是在那裡第一次親眼看見如何製作義大利燉飯。我的老師主廚Bruno正在製作「米蘭燉飯」（Risotto alla Milanese），米蘭菜中相當經典的一道菜。米蘭燉飯簡單但又至為優雅，用料就是帕馬森起司、奶油與番紅花，而且這道菜背後還有段歷史。米蘭在以前是座相當富裕的城邦，而且又是香料中心，而香料當中最貴的就屬番紅花，因此米蘭人就把番紅花就加到燉飯裡，一方面帶有炫富意涵，再來是番紅花能給燉飯有金黃色的色澤，也就好像在告訴所有人，「看！我們米蘭人在吃黃金」。這次，製作米蘭燉飯用的米是維亞諾內納諾（vialone nano），這是很特別的米，只有在北義威內托的維洛納（Verona，羅密歐與茱麗葉的故鄉）種植。維亞諾內納諾米的特徵是比較短比較圓，它是與日本Oryza sativa米種的混種，澱粉含量高的驚人，也因此在烹煮後仍能保有米粒完整外型不致於軟爛，依舊保有彈牙口感，當然在烹煮的過程中更能吸收所有食材的風味。
As I watched my Chef gather the ingredients, he said to the class, as soon as the first ladle of broth hits the rice, it should then take 17 minutes to cook the risotto, no more no less. Covertly like a ninja, I grabbed my timer and hit start. The man cooked the risotto with such ease and elegance using a worn down paddle that his grandmother had given to him made from Ligurian olive wood. Stirring only when need be, he paid constant attention to the texture of the rice and the density of the liquid. He was adding in chicken broth one ladle at a time as to not crowd the rice, or lower the temperature too much.
They say the rice has to first dance, then drink, and then swim like it is in the ocean. As the rice absorbs each ladle of broth, another is ladled in. A medium high bubbling of the pot was constant. When the rice looked ready, and before the cheese the butter and the saffron was introduced, Chef Bruno asked me specifically how much time had passed. I was a bit stunned at the moment as I wasn’t aware he saw me time him, but even more stunned at the fact that exactly 17 minutes had passed. Chef Bruno takes the pot off the fire and places a paper towel over it. For one minute and no more, this is to let the risotto set before what is the last part of the cooking, also the most technical. Step 4 is not mixing, it is called mantecatura, a process in which you slide the pot across the table on an angle, let the rice hit the walls of the pot so it rises like a wave and crashes down into the rest of the rice, all the while, stirring in the butter and cheese. This will thicken the risotto and become creamier as the impact of the rice releases the starch and evenly distributes and blends with the cheese, butter, and saffron. This is the most crucial step as only the right amount and the right speed will ensure the perfect risotto.
The consistency you are looking for is all’onda, which means like ocean waves in Italian. It is neither dense like xifan, nor is it dry like fried rice. It is a smooth, luxurious, wave-like seduction of rice and sauce. As with pasta, the back of the spoon should be coated with just a perfect thickness of sauce that clings on and doesn’t want to fall. Once the mantecatura is done, plate your rice onto a round plate in the center and let it spread evenly. To let the risotto fall uniformly, hold the plate in one hand and bump the bottom of the plate with an open palm to ensure an even layer.
There it is, 17 minutes, and mantecatura. A risotto should take about 3o minutes from start to finish. This is why in Italy, generally the restaurant will tell you it takes a little longer, and also that two portions should be ordered because it is sometimes difficult and time consuming to cook just one portion. If it took under that time, the rice was precooked, and if it took over that time I hope you are not biting into a glob of congee.
If you are in northern Italy, where the risotto prevails, I urge you to order one. Try the classics and try something you never thought was possible with rice, from a porcini risotto, to pumpkin and liquorice. Should you feel up for it, make a risotto, and make it well, but DO NOT wash the rice!
As Chef Bruno would always say, ‘Mantecare bene, ragazzi!’
就像主廚Bruno每次說的，「Mantecare bene, ragazzi!」各位，給我把鍋子好好甩啊！