Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Isn't that pretty? It's a little bundle of saffron threads, tied with red silk thread. My parents, who travel a lot for business and pleasure, brought it back from Turkey. I've resisted cooking with it for a while now, just because it is such a dramatic-looking spice.

That changed this weekend, though. I've got a thing for risotto, and I decided to try risotto milanese.

Risotto milanese is saffron-infused risotto. I read somewhere, sometime ago, that the recipe was created by a poor merchant in Milan during the 1400's to commemorate his daughter's marriage. The story goes that the merchant had lost a shipment of goods during a storm, and thus had no money to give the newlywed couple. To prevent them from going empty-handed on their wedding day (that would be bad luck), he created a risotto dish for the wedding feast that looked like so many golden coins.

True or not, I like the story and the dish itself is delicious. Perhaps it's just the thing to eat in the rotten, rotten economy.

Risotto Milanese
Adapted from this Mario Batali recipe

1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup arborio rice
1/3 cup white wine
2 tablespoons of butter (optional)
1/8 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for sprinkling

In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock to a simmer. Add the saffron, stirring to infuse the threads, and reduce the heat to low and cover.

Meanwhile, in a separate 12-inch saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. 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 3/4 cup of the saffron-infused stock and cook, stirring, until it is absorbed. Continue adding the stock 3/4 cup at a time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Cook until the rice is just al dente, about 15 minutes. Stir in the butter and cheese until well mixed, then serve with a little freshly ground black pepper if desired.

Serves: 2


Foodycat said...

Gorgeous! It is hard to beat such a classic dish. And lucky you t have such beautiful saffron!

melissa said...

It's a sweet story no matter what.

I've never cooked with saffron, but have wanted to try. I also have a hard time with risotto, but I'll nail it one of these days!

Grace said...

isn't saffron the world's most expensive spice? you're a lucky gal! i've never even tasted it, much less cooked with it. :)