Bravo to Milan, Italy
Like osso buco, risotto was perfected by the Milanese, and the two are frequently served together on big occasions in Italy. Rice is believed to have come to Milan in the later part of the Middle Ages through the Arabs who controlled Sicily and southern Italy at the time. Therefore, you want to make sure you use the type of rice used for centuries in risotto. You absolutely need a short-grained rice like Arborio, Vialone Nano, Roma, Baldo, or Carnaroli. Risotto is almost a creamy blend of rice and additional ingredients. Long-grained rice should not be used, because it will not blend – it remains as separate kernels. And don’t even think about using minute rice which does not absorb the liquids correctly and stays hard in the center.
A test of your skills as a chef
In my opinion, risotto recipes requires some practice and your full attention to make correctly. Timing is everything. But the pleasures of well cooked risotto makes it worth the trouble. I never order risotto in restaurants, because I rarely find well-cooked risotto. The chefs do not have time to prepare it correctly. Warning: make sure when you start cooking the rice that you have prepared everything properly, because once you start, there are no timeouts. For example, you need to add warm wine and near boiling meat broth at various points, and you will not have time to heat it once you start cooking the rice.
Ingredients (8 servings)
1 – medium onion, finely chopped 10 tablespoons – butter 2 ounces – beef marrow, minced (Veal shank bones, osso buco, tend to be rich in marrow. You can push the marrow out of the center of the bone and mince it. Ask your butcher for regular beef shank bones if you cannot find veal shank bones. But cafes tend to have more marrow.) 3 cups – (2 – 12 ounce packages) short grained rice (I usually use Arborio) 6 cups – meat broth (heated to near boiling) – if you have time, try making your own. (The risotto tends to take on the taste of the broth so make sure you like the broth you use.) 1 cup – dry white wine (e.g., chardonnay), warmed 0.1 gram – saffron pistils (e.g., Vigo brand) 1 1/2 cups – parmesan cheese (more if you wish to sprinkle on top of the risotto when you dish it up), grated
Let the saffron pistils steep in a bowl with a small amount of hot beef broth. In a large frying pan over low to medium low heat (small flame), saute the onion and beef marrow in 5 tablespoons of butter for about 10 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent. Do not brown. Remove the onion with a slotted spoon into a bowl. You will inevitably pick up some of the butter with the onions. I just cover the onion with the spoon and pour back into the pan any excess butter that came out with the onion (the butter sinks to the bottom of the bowl).
The key from here on is to never stop stirring. You don’t want the rice to burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. Change the heat to medium and saute the rice in the butter for 9 minutes and then add the onion and marrow mixture and saute for another minute. Don’t forget to stir continuously. Add the warm wine (make sure it is warm), and cook until it has evaporated or the rice has absorbed it completely. Then start adding the near boiling beef broth one cup at a time until each cup is absorbed (or almost absorbed) by the rice, continually stirring.
Here is where it gets a bit tricky. You want the rice to be cooked but al dente. Keep cooking until the rice does not taste starchy or hard but is al dente.
Finally, stir in the saffron, the parmesan cheese, and 5 tablespoons of butter and mix thoroughly. Remove from the heat and cover the pan for one or two minutes. Serve immediately.