When I was 20 years old, I had the good fortune of tasting Risotto Milanese for the first time at Savini, a century old restaurant located in the heart of Milan. Living in Milan for three weeks during winter break my Junior year in college, I had been treated to fine dining as much as I had the chance to taste thin crust brick oven pizza with a sunny side up egg cracked on it piping hot just out of the oven. Visiting Milano, that's what Europeans call her, was my first experience traveling abroad. I spent afternoons forging friendships with a handful of students at Bocconi who were friends with a friend of mine who had gone to school there. I loved my new Italian friends, Corrado, Marina and the Fabios stand our in my memory. Our days at Bocconi carried over into cafes, pubs and home cooked dinners well into the night. I spent three weeks in Milano pretty much doing whatever I wanted all expenses paid and lived in a rather poche "residence" apartment/hotel situation. I took a risk going much to the chagrin of my parents, but my desire to experience life and try new things has been my inner compass which I am always grateful for and heed.
During the course of our meal, the chef came out to greet my patron who had brought me to Savini insisting that if I eat in any restaurant in Milan, Savini had was the one. He was buying, so of course I said yes. I have changed the recipe from the chef's dish because he used beef stock and I never have that on hand. I do however make my own chicken stock so that's what I use. I prefer to use homemade anything over store bought, but you my friend, the cook, can do what you like. Also for the vegetarians out there you can use a vegetable stock and it's quite tasty as well. The trick regardless whatever stock you use is to soak the saffron threads for a few hours in the stock before adding the liquid to the rice.
chicken stock warming with saffron threads
1 cup Risotto - I use organic if made in the states, if made in Italy just risotto
2 cups of chicken stock (or your stock of choice)
1/2 tsp Saffron threads - I use Morton & Bassett two little vials - it's expensive
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 medium size organic yellow onion diced
11/2 TBS unsalted organic butter
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese plus extra for plating
Sea salt - my cooking fav Maldon Sea Salt flakes (I believe choice of Chef Wylie Dufresne)
Freshly ground black pepper
top with Italian parsley if you like, but not necessary
In a 12 to 14-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent but not browned, 8
to 10 minutes. Meanwhile on low heat warm the saffron-infused stock. Once the onions are translucent add the rice and stir with a
wooden spoon until toasted and opaque, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the wine to the toasting rice, and then add a 4 to 6-ounce
ladle of the stock and cook, stirring, until it is
absorbed. Continue adding the stock a ladle at a time, waiting until the
liquid is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the rice is tender
and creamy and yet still a little al dente, about 15 minutes. I add a little salt and pepper along the way, but salt and pepper is not part of the original recipe as the broth and butter used may have already been seasoned, mine aren't. Don't walk away from the stove. Keep your eye on it and keep the temperature on medium to med low. You may not need all of the broth though I always seem to use it all. Stir in
the butter and cheese until well mixed. Plate immediately add some extra grated cheese and season to taste.
I've been making this dish for 20 years and it never disappoints me and is great the next day or two as well.
Serve with a side dish of steamed broccoli or my favorite sauteed chiffonade brussel sprouts with pine nuts, sea salt and black pepper.
Most importantly, cook from your heart.