Risotto Milanese Recipe
Often I am asked by friends to teach them how to make Risotto because they think it’s difficult to prepare and because of the mystique created by restaurants.
It’s never on the menu but always there as a “Special”. And then we are told by the waiter to be prepared for a long evening because the “chef makes his Risotto to order”, which they do.
They are always surprised to see that it’s not difficult to make at all. What’s wonderful about learning to make basic Risotto is the number of variations you can create afterwards. This is a very versatile and adaptable dish and a great way to clean out your refrigerator.
What’s especially interesting about this dish is its contrasting texture that is both creamy and crunchy at the same time. What creates this interesting contrasting texture? Both the Arborio (pronounced ar-boh-ree-oh) rice and the cooking technique.
Arborio rice comes from Italy. Its short, fat grains have a hard starchy center and a soft starchy shell. So it makes sense that, when cooked, the soft shell produces creaminess while the center remains crunchy.
The best Arborio rice is a premium Carnaroli rice imported from Italy. It’s hard to find but worth the search.
The next most important ingredient is the stock and you’re not going to believe how much liquid Arborio rice can absorb. The ratio of liquid to rice varies from cookbook to cookbook.
I like to use 7 cups liquid to 2 cups rice, but play around with different ratios until you find the one that works for you.
Depending on the type of Risotto you’re making, you can use fish, beef, chicken, or vegetable stock. If possible, stay away from canned broth, because it’s loaded with chemicals and tons of salt.
Be sure to add the liquid a little at a time while stirring constantly in order to release the rice’s starch.
I read that Risotto Milanese dates back to 1574 when a stained glass artisan named Zafferano added some saffron that he used for coloring his paints to his risotto for his daughter’s wedding. In no time this dish was the talk of the town and still is. If this is not true, it makes for a great story.
Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice. It comes from a tiny purple crocus flowers that produce three stigmas per flower that are hand picked and dried.
It takes 14, 000 of these delicate stigmas to produce one ounce of saffron. Lucky for us a little goes a long way.
Once you’ve mastered Risotto Milanese, try experimenting with mushrooms, veggies, cheese, fish, chicken, duck or whatever else you have on hand.
- Prep: Little prep for this recipe. Dice your onion, grate your Parmesan cheese and you are ready to go.
- Cook: In a large sauce pan, heat the chicken stock but don’t let it come to a boil. Just let it simmer.
- Heat the oil in a separate heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook slowly until translucent.
- Stir in the rice until the grains of rice are coated with the oil. This will keep them from sticking together.
- Cook for a couple of minutes until the rice gives off a nutty smell.
- Start by adding 1 cup of hot stock, stirring continuously.
- As the rice absorbs the stock, begin adding ½ cup of stock at a time, stirring continuously until all the stock is used. (15-20 minutes)
- Remove from heat, stir in the wine, saffron threads, butter and Parmesan cheese.
- Serve immediately.