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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Risotto alla Milanese

I have a small kitchen. While my work space may seem spacious in the photos posted with each recipe, it’s not, being fully occupied by the counter-top appliances I use each day. I’m telling you this by way of apology to the guests (aka “victims”) who recently had Risotto Alla Milanese at our place. Served immediately, this recipe is delicious. Held too long in a warm oven, it becomes gummy and tasteless.

Had I a larger kitchen, I could have made this dish as I chatted with my guests - or handed guests a spoon and asked them to take turns stirring. Had I a cook … Dream on, Nicole! What I didn’t want to do was secrete myself in the kitchen while leaving my guests to fend for themselves! So there are a couple of basic Guidelines and Tips for a successful dinner party: Don’t exceed your limitations! Never ignore your guests! 

I knew Risotto is best made at the last minute, so I should have chosen another dish. I also knew the size of my kitchen meant I should prepare a different dish to allow me time with my guests. While we’re talking dinner party mistakes, it’s never wise to prepare something that guests have trouble eating - like the quail recipe I posted yesterday! When you serve something awkward, be sure to include finger bowls and extra napkins: I forgot.

I’m reminded of the time, several years ago, that I served dinner guests a first course of escargots in seasoned butter sauce. Because I’d stuffed the escargots into their shells, I used fancy little grippers to hold everything in place. Swimming in butter as they were, those shells were very slippery. 

As I attempted to extract a wily escargot from its casing, the shell slipped my grip to fly across the table, straight into a guest’s eye. I’d beaned him clean and simple, playing the role of David to his hapless Goliath. Butter sauce dripping from his cheek, the guy went down howling, clutching his eye. In that moment, I lost all hope of ever becoming Hostess with the Mostess.

So make this recipe if you dare! If you have a large kitchen and encourage participatory cooking, the result should be spectacular!

Risotto Alla Milanese:

6-to-7 c. chicken broth
Saffron threads, as desired to color rice yellow
¼ c. butter or margarine
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 c. Italian arborio rice
½ c. dry white wine
1 c. grated fresh Parmesan cheese (see Note
Additional grated Parmesan, as garnish (see Note)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parsley, very finely chopped (no stems), as garnish

Bring broth to a boil in a saucepan, immediately reducing heat to simmer. Soak and soften saffron threads about 5 min. in ½ c. of hot broth before returning to broth in pan. In a deep, heavy skillet, melt butter on medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic, stirring until onion is translucent and garlic softens, about 5 min.

Rinse arborio rice. Stir into butter mixture until rice becomes shiny and well mixed with butter. Briefly lower heat further, slowly adding wine and stirring until evaporated. Return heat to medium-low. Add ½ c. of the hot, saffron-infused broth, stirring frequently until most of broth has evaporated or has been absorbed by rice. 

Repeat, continuing to stir until rice puffs slightly as it absorbs more liquid. When rice is al dente - chewy, but not quite ready - stir in remaining hot broth, simmering until liquid is absorbed and rice is fully cooked. Stir in grated Parmesan. Season to taste. Transfer to serving dish, sprinkling top with very finely chopped parsley. Serve at once. Yields 6 servings.

Note: Use only fresh, quality Parmesan cheese for this recipe. Do not use powdered or pre-packaged grated cheese mixes containing Parmesan. A quality dish needs quality cheese!

Slowly stir wine into rice and butter mixture

Finished rice should appear pale yellow: Garnish, and serve
Tomorrow: How can anyone screw up a salad? I did, for the same dinner party!

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