Risotto. Even the name sounds romantic and delicious. Leave it to the Italians to make a bowl of rice sound seductive. The amazing thing is that it tastes even better than it sounds. It’s rich and creamy (without using ANY cream) and deeply flavorful, while using only a few ingredients. And it takes less than half an hour. It’s a knockout dish you can tackle with just a little stirring and a little time.
Thirty-plus years ago, my husband and I decided to have a commitment ceremony on our 10th anniversary (this was back in the days before marriage equality). After that long and wonderful day surrounded by friends, we went back to our tiny Brooklyn apartment (with the eight folks sleeping on our floor), and I made risotto for everyone. To this day, people can’t believe I made such a “difficult” dish at the end of a day like that. But I have to let you in on a little secret: risotto is not difficult at all. The only part of making this wonderful dish that could possibly be considered even remotely difficult is the stirring. And the stirring is simply time-consuming, nothing else.
Risotto Milanese is as classic as it gets. I’m generally leery of updating classic recipes. But in this case, my update makes it a lot easier to make this beautiful dish. One of the classic ingredients in this risotto is bone marrow ... not generally something most people have in their larder. But Snake River Farms, one of America’s great meat purveyors, solves that problem. They package and sell dry-aged beef fat, called Chef’s Gold. The flavor is rich and complex, and you can store it in your freezer. And it whips into the risotto just like the butter most recipes call for at the end of cooking. It’s an excellent stand-in for marrow in this dish.
I love basic risotto, though I often add some herbs. When we’re in the mood for something else, I may add sautéed mushrooms, or diced chicken breast that I essentially poach in the rice. But truthfully, this Saffron Risotto is the sine qua non. This decadent amalgam of saffron, stock, Parmigiano, and rice is as comforting as it gets. It’s the perfect dish for celebrating important milestones—no matter how tired you are!