Sunday, April 26, 2009

Risotto alla milanese

Risotto alla milanese

Italian comfort food: a dish of saffron-scented risotto. This is MotH's specialty because he is the risotto king in our kitchen. Being from Milan's suburbs puts the Man of the House right behind the apron, and what's more to say except that it's nice to have someone else do the cooking...sometimes. There is no "who cooks best" between us, but rather a 'who is more qualified to cook a certain dish'. This risotto is just one of those foods.

Now normally when he cooks this milan-style risotto, it's without the traditional beef marrow or midollo (mee-DOH-loh). Labeled as soup bones instead of marrow, the small cuts pictured below were such a steal at .54 euro cents that I couldn't pass them up. I figured that out of the 8 ounces in total weight, a fair amount of fatty globule yumminess could be scraped from the bones. Yep this is a high-cal dish. An online italian calorie chart indicated that there are 25 calories in 3 grams of marrow. We scooped out 26 grams (almost an ounce/216 calories).

Midollo

MotH's style of cooking risotto is very casual, which means the only thing he measures is the rice. His demeanor and pace makes the whole process look like creating art — such a huge contrast to my go get'um adventurous style. On this occasion I did a generous ingredient prep and estimated the amounts he used by what was left over. Making any type of risotto becomes easy once you get the "feel" of it, and by that I mean the creamy, sumptuous flow at the final stage. One observance I noticed is that MotH (and also his mom) begins with a stock that is already well-flavored/salted. He does not adjust for taste at the end. As long as you've got quality rice and a decent stock, you're on your way to risotto greatness.

Risotto alla milanese x due (for two)
2¾ cups well-flavored beef or chicken stock or broth
1 cup (200 grams) risotto rice, we use carnaroli
1/3 cup finely chopped white onions
1 oz. beef marrow
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 packet powdered saffron
butter
1/3 cup grated parmigiano

Place the stock over a low flame and keep hot. Over medium heat, saute the onions and marrow in a tablespoon or two of butter until fragrant and soft. Do not allow the onions to brown. Add the rice; stir until thoroughly coated with the fat. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, on a low simmer until absorbed. Now add the stock, one ladleful at a time, making sure that the liquid is absorbed before adding the next ladle. Continue stirring frequently, but do not add all of the stock. At about 15 minutes, check for doneness by taking a bite test. It takes about 18-20 minutes total cooking time for us but this can vary depending on rice and if your stock was kept hot enough (cold stock is a no-no!). If the grains are still too firm, add a little more stock (an extra 1/4 cup is included in the amount given), keeping in mind that the final consistency should not be soupy, but just a little bit liquid and binding.

Add in the saffron powder just before the rice is almost done; stir to combine well. When the risotto's time is up, turn off the heat and add a tablespoon of butter and the cheese. Stir until incorporated and portion onto individual plates. Serve hot.

Risotto triptych

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pasquetta at the Grignetta

Part of the Grignetta
The peak of the Grignetta. Piece of cake for nimble-footed climbers (italian site).

Post-easter weekend update: since Monday (la pasquetta) is also a holiday in Italy, we embarked on an ambitious attempt to whip our lethargic winter muscles back into shape. The photo is a section of the Grignetta (2177 meters), the lower part of Grigna mountain in Lecco province. According to trail guides the hike to the foot of Grignetta (1384 meters) takes only 90 minutes, but I just don't see how that's possible unless you're speed-flying through the trees like Edward and Bella.

I'm still beat, mentally and physically. Must...get..must get to..the...top. It feels as if a stampede just ran over me. From a departure point of 750 meters, we walked up 625+ meters (2000+ feet) on a winding 19% grade in 2½ hours. The return was quicker but much of the trail is full of loose rock. Fell on my okole only once. Swore several times. This hike was alright for a get-in-shape outing but the trails facing the lake are much more spectacular.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wishing you a peaceful easter weekend

Easter 2009

*Yawn* *grumble* *nose in the air*. It wasn't easy convincing these two to agree to an easter greeting photo shoot. Just to get them wearing the ears without pulling or shaking them off was a 10 minute battle of I'm not having any of that *BS*. But the way to a dog's cooperation is through the stomach, and eventually, two dishes of pear chunks (off to the side) was enough to grant me this Kodak moment. Don't ask me about Maddie's "ears" — I was only going for a teddy bear hamster look as she is the more hammie of the two. Aarff!

Pasqua 2009
Happy Easter from me, MotH, Maddie and MisterB