Saffron Recipe 2: Risotto alla Milanese (Brianza Version) + Suppli’

OK, just to tease Chris before his quest for saffron bears fruit, here is a continuation of the theme of that most divine of spices.

This recipe is one of the Brianza-region variants of the famous Risotto alla Milanese, one of Northern Italy’s most beloved dishes–and consequently more subject to provincial variations.

Ingredients for 4 people (planning on having leftovers–keep reading):

  • 5 Generous cups of Arborio rice. When preparing risotto, absolutely NEVER use the Indian or Chinese varieties, unless you plan on boiling the rice (as you would pasta) and then add the sauce. Which lends an OK result for a quick informal dinner, but not much more.
  • A scoop of good butter.
  • Half a softball-sized onion, chopped in fairly small pieces.
  • A generous pinch of saffron, in powder or pounded in a small mortar.
  • A fresh leaf of sage.
  • One abundant half glass of good red wine–this is the principal substitute in the Brianza version: the traditional Milanese dish features instead marrow.
  • A quart of good beef broth.
  • Grated Grana cheese (or Parmigiano, but not Pecorino)

First things first: boil the broth, and stir the saffron in it until the broth has a nice golden color. Important: keep the broth piping hot–I normally keep it in a small pot on the stove with the heated ladle ready in waiting while I prepare the risotto. Cold broth is the #1 cause for failed risotti worldwide.  

Melt the butter in a casserole, and sautee the onion together with the sage. When the onion is blonde, add the rice and “toast” it for a couple minutes. Then, add the wine, raise the flame and, stirring often, let it evaporate until you no can longer smell it. Lower the flame and immediately add a couple ladles of hot broth, just enouth to soak the rice. Keep stirring, and when you notice that the broth is almost absorbed, add more broth. Keep doing this until the risotto is cooked but still very al dente–which will take about 20 minutes, then serve immediately after pre-grating some cheese in the serving bowl.

If desired, you can sprinkle some flakes of good butter on the risotto before serving (this is called “Mantecare” the risotto). Make sure the risotto, when presented, is fluffed up–we call this “all’onda” or “wavy-style.” The quickest way to betray yourself as a “Tarlucken” (a dismissive term we generically apply to our Transalpine neighbors) is to use your fork–or worse, your spoon–to pat the rice flat on your dish. 😉 

Tuck in, and enjoy with some good wine–white or red, as you please, depending on what you are having as a second course. OK, at this point, you will be thinking: my, that’s a lot of rice for four people. And you’d be right. When we make this risotto, we always plan on having a generous amount of leftover. Here’s what you do with the leftover (Chris & Katie, you’ll love this).

Take all the leftover risotto and place in a deep bowl in the refrigerator, covered so that it doesn’t absorb other flavors from the neighboring items. When you are ready to taste some more delicious saffron, do the following:

Break a couple eggs, and put them, raw, in a shallow bowl. Take the rice, and if you want, grate a little (A LITTLE) nutmeg in it and a bit of unflavored breadcrumbs–best if home-made from grating stale bread really fine. Using your hands, make some small football-shaped balls with the rice (about 3″ long), nice and compact, roll them in the egg and dunk them in a frying pan full of hot olive oil. When they are golden and crisp on the outside, place them on a serving dish on which you will have spread some absorbing tissue paper (many Italians don’t like greasy dishes). This leftover recipe is called Suppli’ and, together with the “Frittata di pasta” is one of the most popular ways in which to reuse a meal–because of our Catholic imprint, we Italians prefer not to throw away food (especially bread!!), which is always a “gift” from the Almighty.

Enjoy! 

Barbaresco

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16 comments on “Saffron Recipe 2: Risotto alla Milanese (Brianza Version) + Suppli’

  1. Chris says:

    This sounds *really* good. I’m going to have to try this ASAP.

    I also get rather squicky about wasting food, so leftover recipes are kind of a nice thing in my book – though on the other hand, I’m not a huge fan of doing the same meal multiple days. Being able to change it a bit and reenvision things is a great thing in my book.

  2. barbaresco says:

    Oh, believe me… the Suppli’ is a totally different dish–as different as fries are from mashed potatoes. 😉

  3. barbaresco says:

    I’ll post more leftover recipes–I have a few really good ones. And I haven’t forgotten about your request, although that may take me a while.

  4. happycrow says:

    Oh yum…good risotto is hard to find. I really need to try this one.

  5. Anna says:

    That was me there, from the home computer, where the Husband has a permalogin installed…

  6. Chris says:

    I wondered about that – if it were really Russ, I would have expected it to say “I must beg/plead/cajole the Bunny into making this” 🙂

  7. Chris says:

    Katie and I made this last night.

    We cut the rice down to two cups, and still have a ton of leftover.

    Tom – what do you consider a generous pinch of saffron? We used about .75 grams in our reduced recipe, and Katie thought it was too much, though I really felt it was about right – though I think Katie doesn’t really have the acquired taste for saffron yet. That said, it took the full quart of beef broth to get things cooked. Our arborio rice came from world market and is an Italian import, so I don’t think that is the problem.

    All in all, I quite liked this.

  8. caffeinatedkatie says:

    When we made this, we actually used 2.5 cups-basically trying to cut the recipe in half. For me, I think I’d prefer it if we use a little less saffron, and more sage for a more balanced dish.

  9. barbaresco says:

    WHOA! A standard “mini-envelope” of the kind that Italian households use to make their famed risotto only contains 0.15gr–which is usually OK for 2 people. What I call a generous pinch of strands, pounded into powder in a mortar, makes about that much.

  10. Chris says:

    Ok – I wondered. That said, this saffron doesn’t have a lot of ooomph to it – basically this is coming pre-ground, in 4 little plastic containers, 1/4 gram per container. probably one container would be fine – though I certainly DO have a taste for saffron and it doesn’t bother me. This saffron also doesn’t give a ton of color – but we’ll cut it back next time and see what Katie thinks.

    Any idea why it took us so much more liquid for 2.5 cups of rice, than you called for with 5 cups?

    Also – any idea what happened with our saffron chicken? The amount of clove/ginger/cinnamon made the saffron utterly undetectable, even at 3/4 of a gram… and honestly, the cloves/ginger drowned almost everything else out – giving a rather curry like dish.. Is the conspicuous consumption of spice the point here, or are we missing the point?

  11. barbaresco says:

    These are both dishes that you need to make a few times and adjust to your taste. Especially the second.

    No idea about the amount of liquid. Must be because of the type of rice??? I don’t know.

  12. barbaresco says:

    Also, I’d have to see how the texture of your risotto came out. I find that I never quite get to use a quart of broth.

  13. Chris says:

    Hmm… interesting. I felt like up until the quart of broth was gone it hadn’t taken anything of a creamy texture at all, and there was plenty of not just firm ‘bite’ to the rice, but more like a slight squish followed by a fracture of the rest of the grain. In other words, I felt it was under-done right up until the end..

  14. barbaresco says:

    Uh, not good. Well, then quantities be darned, make more broth and keep adding. The important thing is that you 1) keep stirring the rice–this is a dish that cannot admit absence from the stove; 2) that you only add enough broth each time to barely cover the contents of the pan and 3) that the broth be piping hot when you add it, so that the boiling doesn’t stop.

  15. barbaresco says:

    Also… If you can find it (online), and don’t want to go through the trouble of grinding your own, get either of these brands of saffron:

    1) 3 Cuochi

    2) Leprotto

    This is what we use in Italy for our everyday cooking.

  16. barbaresco says:

    And one more thing. If you make more broth than 1 quart, instead of dissolving the saffron in the broth, add it directly to the rice about 1 minute before it’s done. You’ll see the rice magically turn golden yellow.

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