October 26, 2008

Risotto Milanese

This is the base of a dish that can be varied in countless different ways. There are as many recipes for risotto as there are cooks who make it. Making risotto is not hard work. But it is time-consuming. And I made about four times more risotto than The Wife and I needed. Here's what I did:

10 cups chicken stock
2 cups arborrio rice (can substitute other varieties of short-grained white rice but avoid long grains like basmati or jasmine)
1 onion
1 tsp. powdered garlic
1 pinch saffron
2 oz. pork fat (can substitute clarified butter)
1 tbsp. butter
Parmesan cheese

Chop the onion very finely. In a large pot (at least a three-quart capacity) melt the pork fat over medium heat. Add the onion and powdered garlic. Stir until onions sweat and turn a gold. Add the rice, while still dry. Stir until the rice and the fat-coated onions are thoroughly mixed. Pour in one and only one cup of the chicken stock. Stir constantly until liquid in mixture is almost boiled away, which should take about five minutes. Add another cup of chicken stock, repeat until chicken stock is gone. Halfway through adding stock, add saffron. Add the butter after the last of the stock has been added and about halfway boiled away. Final mixture should be the consistency of porridge or oatmeal. Serve with grating of fresh Parmesean in a shallow-bottomed bowl.

This takes about an hour to an hour and a half to make. The result is a hearty, savory starch dish. In the quantities I included above, it's enough for eight people, so smaller tables or smaller appetites will want to halve or even quarter the quantities -- and that means you can probably use a smaller vessel or even a large saute pan.

I used chicken stock, butter, and pork fat, but vegetable stock and olive oil will also work if you want to make a vegetarian or vegan dish. You can add asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, or anything else with a strong flavor in place of the garlic or saffron. Or if you're more of a carnivore, diced ham goes good in risotto, and you can use stock made from pretty much any meat or vegetable.

No comments: