Though Milan may be known primarily for its fashion, its cathedral and the great Milan-San Remo bike race, it is only slightly less well known for its creamy, golden, saffron-infused risotto. Though I typically do not like to repeat dishes and/or styles of dishes (barley risotto…), this dish is just too classically “Milanese” to overlook in conjunction with Milan-San Remo.
Recipe and Photos by Casey Weaver
Though it is traditionally served alongside Osso Bucco, in staying true to our competitor-friendly meals, we are going to serve it along side a simple, light and fresh salad of peppery greens and fresh herbs– a true celebration of La Primavera.
• 2 cups Arborio rice
• 1 cup dry white wine
• 3 cups warm chicken stock (maybe more)
• 1 medium yellow onion, diced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 (generous) t saffron
• 1 cup grated permesan-reggiano cheese
• 2 t olive oil
• salt and pepper
Saffron – or zafferano in Italian – is the world’s most expensive spice, and one of the best tasting.
• 3 cups mesclun salad mix
• 3 cups arugula
• 5 strawberries, topped and sliced thin lengthwise
• Ѕ cup coarsely chopped pecans
• 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
• 3 T extra virgin olive oil
• 2 t lemon juice
• 1 t white wine vinegar
• ј t sugar
• 1/8 t salt
• black pepper to taste
For the Salad
Mesclun literally means “to mix,” and a mesclun salad mix can include a number of different ingredients. What they have in common is that they are usually Spring greens and are harvested at an early stage. I like to go to the farmer’s market and look for the craziest mix I can find, and tend to get really excited with mixes that include things like flower pedals and fresh herbs. If you cannot find a mesclun mix, anything labeled “mixed baby greens” or “herb mix” will work just fine.
After washing the salad greens and strawberries (berries tend to be grown in and saturated with pesticides, toss them in a salad bowl. If you want to give the salad a bit more substance, consider including the pecans and feta. If you are happy with a very simple side salad, just leave it as is. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a separate small bowl and whisk well. Dress the salad, toss and serve.
For the Risotto
Arborio rice is traditionally used in risotto, but if you do not have and do not want to get any, a medium-grain rice will stand in fine.
To start, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, season with salt, and cook about four minutes, until beginning to soften and turn translucent. Slightly reduce the heat and add the rice, stirring to combine. Cook about three to four minutes, stirring often and allowing the rice to lightly toast, then add the white wine and saffron.
Return the heat to medium-high, bringing the wine to a simmer. Allow the wine to simmer until it is reduced to about half of its original volume. Reduce the heat to medium and add about one half to two thirds of a cup of stock, stirring constantly until it is absorbed. Repeat this process until all the stock is used and rice is cooked “al dente.”
(Note: If you are anything like me, inevitably you will be in a hurry and will cook the risotto over too high of heat. If this is the case, you will need more than three and a half cups of stock. Try to slow down and know that by cooking the risotto over medium, steady heat, this will allow the rice to really absorb the flavors of the wine and the stock and will give your final product a smooth, creamy texture. You will be greatly rewarded for your patience.)
Just before the risotto is finished, add the grated parmesan cheese and stir until it is melted and completely integrated. The determining factor as to how soupy you leave your risotto should be based on your preference, not what I say. If you prefer to eat risotto out of a bowl with a spoon, then add slightly more stock and leave it runny, if you prefer your risotto to stand as a side on a plate, cook out most of the liquid and enjoy.
Plate it (or bowl it) up next to your salad and top with fresh shaved or grated parmesan cheese. Even better, bring it to your favorite Spring classic, pop a bottle of crisp white wine, and enjoy.
Makes four servings.
Drink it with a nice bottle of Valpolicella.