As more varieties and better qualities of brown rice become increasingly common, it’s growing clear that you can do pretty much anything you want with this less processed version of the world’s second-most-popular grain. (You guessed it: corn is numero uno.)
This includes making risotto. Real, creamy, tender risotto. There is really only one adjustment to make, and that is to parboil the rice so that the risotto-making process takes about the same amount of time — 20 minutes or so — that it does with white rice.
As you normally would, choose short- or medium-grain brown rice, which is crucially important because these are the varieties that emit enough starch to make the final product creamy. One could argue, and some will, that you should begin with Italian varieties like Arborio. But good Spanish, Japanese and, yes, American short- and medium-grain rices give equally good results.
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In 1969, I ate my first bowl of plain, boiled brown rice, then proceeded to live on it for a week, replicating the diet of a hippie girl to whom I hoped to demonstrate my sex appeal. (It didn’t work.) Twenty years later, brown rice became a minor but regular part of my repertory.
Now brown rice has not only lost its hippie stigma; it has also become sort of de rigueur, though it’s mostly relegated to a dull side dish served underneath or next to something more interesting — stir-fries, stews, chili — a worthy if obligatory “healthful” substitute for white rice.
It need not be this way. There are dozens of brown-rice varieties, because “brown” simply means “hulled but not stripped of bran layers.” Brown basmati has the same nutty aroma as white, with more chew; most brown short-grains release starch, just like arborio; most brown long-grains cook just like “regular” rice; and black, mahogany, purple, red — all those novelty rices are “brown” and can be treated in pretty much the same ways, and those ways are myriad.
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