….cos practice makes perfect.
I’m not sure.. did I mention that I am going to be one of the judges in the Essential Cuisine Risotto competition on Facebook and Twitter? And that means that I will be cooking the finalist risotti along with fellow judges Jeremy from Essential Cuisine, and fellow blogger Jenny from Rhubarb and Ginger? Because it is a cooking competition, a proper real cooking competition, and our job will be to judge the taste and texture by following the recipe provided to us by the contestant, cooking and judging their risotto. (There are some really good prizes to be won, and still time to enter – just pop a description of your favourite risotto on Facebook, and the Essential Cuisine chefs will decide on the finalists to be cooked and tastetested)
No sweat then. Just maybe a little practice to make sure that my risotto skills are up to scratch.
I told you about my risotto rules a couple of years ago… silky and slumpy, like the tummy on a Turkish odalisque. Do you remember?
Well I will be applying the same rules. So let’s start at the very beginning. With a classic. Perhaps the simplest and oldest of all risotti, and a perfect accompaniment to lots of autumn braises and stews. A risotto Milanese.
This simple risotto, cooked in stock with saffron, can be found dating back to medieval times, in almost the same form that we eat it now. In 2007, the City of Milan recognized several Milanese products, including osso buco and risotto, with a Recognition of Communal Denomination (De.Co.).
The legend that Milan quoted as proof of the antiquity of risotto, is that it was created on September 8, 1574. It would appear that while the Cathedral Duomo Di Milano was being constructed, a Master Glazer, Valerio di Fiandra was in charge of creating the stained glass windows. Saffron was using in preparing some of the colors for the stained glass, and it would seem that one of his apprentices decided to play a practical joke, and added saffron to one of the rice dishes at a wedding feast, possibly the wedding of Valerio’s daughter. Everyone loved it, and Risotto alla Milanese was born.
Risotto alla Milanese is a simple dish, and isn’t usually eaten as a one dish meal, but as an accompaniment to rich stews and braises. One of the most traditional is Osso Buco , or Hollow Bone, which is a slice of veal shin cut across the bone, and slowly braised until soft and unctuous. It is a very delicious dish, savoury and yet slightly sweet from the Marsala and carrots and tomatoes in the sauce, and used to be extremely expensive and luxurious, a dish to be eaten in a restaurant rather than cooked at home. Now that English Rose Veal is more easily found, we can request this cut and enjoy it at home, as it is so simple to prepare if you are used to making an English stew.
Risotto alla Milanese (for 2 people)
one shallot , finely chopped
30g unsalted butter
wineglass of white wine or dry Marsala
1 mugful of risotto rice (Arborio or Carnoroli)
3 mugfuls of hot chicken or veal stock*
6-8 strands saffron
further 30g unsalted butter
handful of grated parmesan
- Put the stock into a saucepan, and keep hot on the hob.
- Saute the shallot in the butter, very gently, until soft but not browned.
- Add the rice and stir into the buttery shallots on a medium heat, toast until just starting to stick. Throw the wine or Marsala into the pan, and allow to boil fast until nearly evaporated.
- Meanwhile, toast the saffron strands either in a metal spoon in a gas flame, or in a small pan if you are cooking with electricity. Don’t burn them, but they should turn a deeper burnt orange. Place in a small bowl and just cover with hot stock, leave to infuse.
- Ladle the stock onto the rice, stirring from time to time over a medium heat. You don’t need to stir continually, just keep it moving so the rice doesn’t stick to the base, and so that the starches mix with the stock. Keep adding stock as it is absorbed. After about 15 minutes, you should be able to bite a grain of rice and see just a little white core in the middle. At this point add the saffron with its soaking water.
- Keep stirring, adding stock and testing for another 5-8 minutes until the rice bites through with no white core, but it is still nicely firm and not stodgy, there should be enough stock left to make it a smooth slumpy mixture. If you run a wooden spoon through the middle you want a channel to appear that will slowly fill back, rather like jam. Remove from the heat.
- Add the extra butter and cheese and beat quite fiercely until it is absorbed. Cover the pan and leave for 5 minutes for the butter and cheese to be absorbed.
Osso buco Milanese (2 people)
two thick slices of veal shin cut across the bone.
one finely chopped onion
3 finely diced carrots
3 sticks of celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
one can or carton of chopped tomatoes, or three or four fresh tomatoes skinned and chopped
one wine glass of dry Marsala or white wine
approx half a pint of veal stock *
several stems of fresh thyme or half a tsp of dried thyme
an ounce or two of unsalted butter and a splash of olive oil
flour for dusting the veal
Chopped parsley to finish**
- Lightly dust the veal with flour, and season with salt and pepper. Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan, do not let the butter burn. Seal the veal on both sides until golden brown, remove and place in an ovenproof casserole. Do not discard the butter/oil in the frying pan.
- In the same pan, sauté the onion, carrots and celery until tender. Add the garlic half way through sautéing the vegetables. Deglaze the pan with the wine or Marsala, and the stock. Add the thyme and chopped tomatoes. Tip onto the veal in the casserole, cover with a lid or foil.
- Cook in a moderate oven for approximately an hour and a half, until the meat is very tender when pierced with a fork. If the sauce is still quite liquid, then strain the liquid into a pan and reduce until it how you wish it to be.
- Serve with the risotto, with chopped parsley sprinkled over. **
*I use Essential Cuisine stock powders, you can use home made stock, or any reputable cube
**Typically, the osso buco would be garnished with gremolata, which is raw garlic, parsley and lemon rind finely chopped together. This is also delicious, although a more assertive flavour, and I think can drown the delicacy of the veal. But it IS traditional, so by all means try it.