Monday, March 9, 2009

More Home Cookin': Risotto Two Ways

by Xani

I am a very lucky girl. I have a great family, an awesome home, a busy social calendar, and a wonderful job. I guess having ANY job in this economy is a wonderful thing, but mine is EXTRA wonderful-- I work with cool people on interesting issues, have a corner office with a view of Camden Yards, travel to fantastic locales, and (jealous yet??) every once in a while, one of my coworkers, knowing my love for all things culinary, brings me a foodie present. And a few weeks ago, I got a very special present indeed...

This represents only a small portion of the total amount of saffron

Saffron! Fragrant, gorgeous, expensive saffron-- and lots of it.
Saffron isn't something I necessarily keep around the house-- I've only ever bought it in those teeny, tiny little containers which cost $8 and hold approximately three strands. But now, thanks to a very generous co-worker with family in the middle east, I am absolutely RICH was saffron. I'm considering storing it in a fireproof safe. And I'm considering lots and lots of recipes which showcase its gorgeous color and aroma.

My first recipe is a classic: Risotto Milanese . It was also the perfect Pantry Raid meal to cook on a weeknight when I had invited my buddy Jason over for dinner, but had no time to hit the store. I had the onion, arborio rice, Parmesan, and homemade chicken stock on hand-- all that was left to do was a little stirring (ok, a LOT of stirring), throw together a little salad, and voila!

The recipe is pretty basic, and I've done risotto before , but the real magic here is how you steep the strands of saffron in the broth while it heats, which infuses it with the flavor and color. Then, as you gradually add it to the rice, you see it turn that gorgeous yellow color right before your eyes!

Jason and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner (and I especially like his Iron Chef-style commentary while I cooked-- Thanks dude!), but a good portion of the risotto went uneaten. A few days later, feeling too lazy to make arancini , I opted to create a sortof "risotto kugel ." I mixed a beaten egg into the leftover risotto, spread it into a buttered (vintage) le crueset skillet, topped with bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and (of course) more butter, and baked in a hot oven until heated through and golden brown on top. Then I served it up in slices alongside a few pieces of The World's Best Broccoli (simply roasted at high heat with garlic, olive oil, and red chili flakes, then topped with lemon juice, zest, and Parmesan while hot out of the oven-- delicious!).

I've hardly made a dent in the saffron, so please send me your favorite ways to use this prized spice. So far I'm pretty happy with these two delicious, hearty meals that were relatively simple to make, but oh-so flavorful and perfectly cozy for a winter that just won't quit. I'm actually writing this post from Chicago (lucky me!) where the weather is still decidedly wintry... all the more reason to indulge in comfort food! Stay tuned for yummy Chicago eats!


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