From the flowers of the Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus, comes the spice "saffron". Each plant of this variety of crocus has approximately 4 flowers and each flower has 3 stigma. It is this stigma which is painstakingly picked from the blossoms and dried to become the saffron that gives Risotto Milanese its exquisite golden color and its rich taste. If you do not happen to have Crocus sativus growing in your garden, you can purchase dried saffron online. Beware, it is quite expensive and needs to be stored in a glass jar wrapped in aluminum foil in a dark cabinet. You do not need to use much of this space, so a small amount will last a good long time.
For Risotto Milanese, you need the following ingredients:
6 cups chicken stock (although I have used chicken broth or vegetable broth when in a pinch)
1 Tablespoon saffron threads
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small yellow onions, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
In a 2 quart saucepan, cook the stock and saffron over medium heat. Keep warm. In a 4 quart saucepan, melt the butter and sauté the onions until tender. Then add the rice and cook until toasted, approximately 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the wine to the rice and cook until the wine has evaporated, approximately 2 minutes. Then add 1/2 cup of the warm stock/saffron mixture to the rice and cook until the stock has been absorbed, stirring continuously. Continue adding the stock in 1/2 cup increments until you have used all the stock, allowing the rice to absorb the stock after each addition. Stir continuously throughout. Add the parmesan cheese and stir into the mixture. Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
This is not a dish that is difficult to prepare. It does, however, require your attention throughout the entire process, which is about 30 minutes give or take. The resulting dish, which tradition holds originated in the Italian city of Milan, is well worth the effort. Serve with hot bread and a green salad and you have a delicious meal.