One of the traditional rice dishes of northern Italy is risotto, made with a starchy rice. The little pearls are first quickly sautéed in butter, and then liquid is added to finish the cooking process and plump up the grains of rice.
The Venetians like to say the rice should be all'onda, or on the wave crest. That is, the rice should not be lumpy, but wavy and creamy and flow easily off the spoon. There are many variations of the classic risotto alla Milanese; this one is my favorite. The saffron gives a subtle flavor, and a yellowish hue, to the rice.
Add to it Martin Yan's creative blend of veggies and this becomes a perfect case of East meets West.
1 tablespoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons warm water
4 1/2 to 5 cups homemade chicken broth
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely minced white onion
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Put the saffron threads in a small bowl and add the warm water. Set aside to soak.
In a saucepan, bring the chicken broth just to a simmer. Keep warm over low heat.
In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until very soft; do not allow to brown - it should remain colorless and almost seem to dissolve in the butter. Add the rice and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring to coat each grain with the butter-onion mixture. When the rice begins to make a crackling sound, reduce the heat to medium low and add 1/2 cup of the white wine.
Then add the veggies.
Cook, stirring constantly, until all the wine is absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of the hot chicken broth and cook, continuing to stir, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine and then add 4 cups of the broth 1/2 cup at a time, continuing to stir and allowing the rice to absorb each addition of liquid.
Test the rice for doneness: It should be just al dente, not at all mushy, and hold its shape. If necessary, add up to 1/2 cup more broth and cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Add the saffron threads with the water and mix well.
Remove the rice from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Serve at once.
This recipe is featured on show 1620 - Rice to the Occasion.
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