risotto: the myth, the legend
Here’s what I didn’t do. I didn’t buckle and add extra uncooked rice to the almost done rice when Chef Ramsay yelled at me for making two orders of risotto instead of four.
“Come on, Salvatore! Making risotto is not that f***ing hard!!!”
(Don’t lie, everyone has secret summer TV shows. Mine just happen to be Hell’s Kitchen and America’s Got Talent. Oh and Wipeout. Um, funniest show ever on the planet. ever.)
But, back to the Kitchen. It’s yes chef, indeed. Making risotto is actually not that hard. That would be the myth.
So, here’s what I did do. I channeled the legend: my dad.
This requires a little bit of backstory. My dad is an enthusiast, but a committed one. He gets really excited about things–like sailing, playing guitar like Bob Dylan, painting, you name it–but then actually goes and learns how to do them. And to do them well. One of his best is making risotto.
I’m not sure when it started, but I’m guessing it was shortly after we took a family trip to Italy when I was 10 years old. For a while after that we’d sometimes have risotto as much as once a week. Often he’d make risotto milanese–its saffrony smell instantly brings me back to childhood. He still makes it, and most recently I was lucky enough to be around for The Pope’s Risotto, which was made with gorgeous greens and fresh peas. I said he was a committed enthusiast. He stirs vigorously and constantly. That’s how legends are born.
So, when I was at the co-op earlier this week buying bread flour from the bulk food section and saw arborio rice, I thought it was time to give it a try. I modified the recipe for risotto milanese a bit, using green onions instead of a regular white onion and adding a bit of garlic. G grilled chicken with a balsamic reduction and we had a fantastic meal for two on our deck. I’m not sure why it’s called risotto milanese…my Food Lover’s Companion says that “risotto milanese” is always flavored with saffron, but the entry for “alla milanese” says “Italian for ‘in the style of Milan,’ referring to food (usually meat) dipped in beaten egg, then into a breadcrumb-Parmesan mixture and fried in butter.” So who knows. I do know it’s delicious.
adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”; serves 4
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
3 green onions, finely chopped, mostly only the white part…you can go a little into the green
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup of white wine
4 cups of chicken broth/stock, you might need a little extra
a couple pinches of saffron…mine was a little old so I added extra
1/2 parmesan cheese, finely grated, and extra for serving
fresh parsley, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup or more to taste, to be added at the end
Salt and pepper, to taste
You need two pots on the stove. One to hold the chicken broth (so it needs to be big enough for 4 cups of liquid) and other to make the risotto in. For the second one I used a large non-stick sauce pot. You can use a pasta pot as well.
Add the chicken broth to the first pot and turn on medium heat to warm it up. When it gets hot, crumble the saffron in it. You want the chicken broth with saffron to stay hot, but not boiling as you cook the risotto.
In the other pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter on medium heat. Once it’s melted and hot, add the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until it starts to smell really good. You don’t want the garlic to turn brown, you want it to be just before that. Next, add the rice and stir to coat it with the butter, garlic, and onions. Cook for a minute and then add the white wine. Stir and let this cook for a couple of minutes. You can add a little bit of salt and pepper to taste, or as you go along…I don’t think it needs much salt. Next, add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, and stir. You’re going to basically keep stirring the whole time. You can leave it, but not for more than 30 seconds or so. You don’t have to stir hard, just keep it moving. The idea is to add 1/2 cup of broth at a time until it’s all gone, adding it once the previous addition has mostly been soaked up by the rice. It shouldn’t be totally soaked up but mostly. If it’s really liquidy, you want to wait to add the next 1/2 cup. You can keep it on medium heat or move it to medium-high. Don’t turn it down more than medium.
Keep doing this until all the broth is gone. As you get down to the last 1/2 cup or so, start tasting the risotto. You want it to be mostly done, but with a slight chewy-ness or crunch. Not too much though. Kind of like you’d make pasta al dente. It took me exactly 4 cups of broth for mine to cook, but if it’s still not done after you’ve used the 4, you can add more broth a little at a time.
When it’s done turn the heat off and immediately add two more tablespoons of butter and the parmesan cheese and mix those in. Stir in the fresh parsley and serve with some parmesan on top to taste.