Saffron Risotto

The technique to make risotto is always the same. I’ll repeat it here in brief, but if you want a more detailed account you can see my first post on risotto ^_*

Traditional saffron risotto, called Risotto allo Zafferano, or Risotto alla Milanese was already known during the middle ages in both arab and jewish cuisine, but was officially born in Milan on the 8th of September 1574. This belgian glass-blower, Valerio di Fiandra, had organised a spectacular wedding for his daughter that day and the plate was created more as a play on colour and aesthetics than anything else. However the taste was so good and the guests so satisfied that it soon began creeping into the cucina milanese and…the rest is history.

Now this recipe is a bit different than the one you can find in restaurants in Italy – mine has bacon. But then again, why not? I like it without, but the bacon gives the risotto a whole other level that no other protein can give… if not maybe bone marrow. I say bone marrow because I just read the recipe for Risotto alla Milanese in every Italian chef’s bible: La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiare Bene by Pellegrino Artusi, written in 1891. He uses exactly my same ingredients, substituting only the bacon (which maybe hadn’t been invented yet, as such!) with bone marrow. So there.

The only prepping you will need to do for this recipe is chopping up the onion and bacon, heating some stock (or water, if you’re adding a bouillon cube at the beginning like I do) and measuring the rice. Since the saffron and bacon aren’t as substantial as, say, pumpkin and sausage, I’d recommend about 80/100gr of rice per person. If you want the guests to be happy. Also, I used one store-bought bouillon cube in this recipe for four people. FYI.

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The ingredients you will need. Not in the photo: the bouillon cube, the white wine, black pepper and more salt, if needed.
The only prepping you need to do is this.
In a hot, non-stick pan add the bacon and wait for the fat to start melting.
Add the onion
Add the bouillon cube and the pepper. I like adding the bouillon cube now, so the onion and the bacon and, in a second, the rice can fully absorb all the taste
If you see that the bouillon cube is struggling to dissolve, add a little amount of water. Here I added a little less than half a glass of warm water.
Now the rice. Turn the music off, turn the tv off, turn the air vent off and listen – this is the most important moment! Put the rice in and it will sizzle, absorbing all the yummy liquids that were in the pan. As soon as it goes quiet, add a large glass of white wine and let it absorb that completely, too.
After the wine has been absorbed, put in a ladle of stock or, if you added the bouillon cube before, just the hot water. Let the rice absorb that and then continue adding stock/water until the rice is nearly ready (about 12/15mins after you started cooking it)
3 to 5 minutes to the end, when the rice is soft but still a tiny bit hard in the center, add the saffron. I use italian, powdered saffron. I tried with the spanish one but it’s not as tasty; I tried with the whole pistils but again, not as tasty. One small bag is enough for 200grs of rice (I think they weigh 2grs each)
Stir the rice – this should be the colour you get. Taste it. If the colour is too dull or you can’t taste the saffron, add some more!
Last but not least, the butter. Butter should be added when the rice is basically ready, and not cooked but simply melted into the risotto. In this image the stove was off: I stirred until the butter melted and the risotto glistened.
And you’re done! Not as easy as other recipes in this blog, but certainly rewarding. Remember: risotto needs love and constant attention. If you like it, at this point you can add some parmesan. If not, you’re good to go.


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