I love the versatility of risotto. It can be simple or complex depending on the ingredients added to the basic recipe. Risotto can be the star and the main course of a menu or it can be a simple first course followed by a dish that requires little time like a veal scaloppini or a simple sautéed chop.
Because it is a last minute preparation, risotto can be a difficult dish to serve to company. However, making a good risotto requires more attention than concentration. My solution is to prepare this dish for good friends who will enjoy sharing a glass of wine and some simple hors d’oeuvres with the cook while she coaxes out the flavors of the ingredients and the creaminess of the rice during the ceremonial stirring of the risotto.
Risotto’s versatility extends to the seasons as well. By combining only a few ingredients, it is possible to produce a soothing and warm dish that qualifies as one of the most elegant and finest of comfort foods — perfect for autumn or winter, or with lighter ingredients a comforting harbinger of spring or a welcoming taste of summer.
Convito Chef Eric Hammond’s Risotto alla Milanese
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups Carnaroli or Arborio rice
- 2 large pinches saffron
- 3 cups chicken stock, kept HOT (3 to 4)
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine (1 1/2 to 2)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 to 3/4)
- 1/4 cup peas – fresh or frozen
1. Coat a large saucepan generously with olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and salt and sweat them until translucent, about 5 minutes. Bring the pan to a medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, letting the rice slightly stick to the bottom of the pan and scraping it off. It should also sound crackly.
2. Add the saffron to the hot chicken stock; the stock should turn bright yellow.
3. Add the wine to the pan until it covers the surface of the rice. Season with salt and cook over a medium-high heat, stirring continuously until the wine has absorbed into the rice. Add the saffron chicken stock to the pan until it covers the rice. Cook over a medium-high heat, stirring continuously until the stock has absorbed into the rice.
4. Repeat this process two more times with the hot saffron chicken stock. Add the peas. When the third addition of the stock has absorbed and the rice is very creamy, bite a couple grains of rice to be sure it is cooked perfectly. If it is still a little crunchy, add a little more stock and cook the rice for another couple of minutes. When the rice is cooked perfectly, remove it from the heat.
5. Toss in the butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano and “whip the heck out of it.” The rice should be creamy but still flow and hold its own shape.
Saffron is a spice that pairs just as well with a white or a red wine. We recommend a slightly tannic Valpolicella Classica or an elegant white like Livio Felluga’s Pinot Grigio.
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