Because I'm a sucker for the cold weather (not really), we're going to spend another week in the snow-capped comfort of the Alps and the warm, inviting kitchens of the north. This week transports us mere hours from last week's sojourn in verdant Toscana to the cobblestone shadows of the Duomo and the gilded steps of the Teatro la Scala -- you guessed it -- Milan! Letting us back into the inviting corners of her kitchen is the electric Nonna Carmen. She'll be providing us with her usual sharp insights and gentle guiding hand as we attempt to add a northern twist to an infinitely popular dish: Risotto alla Milanese, or perhaps also known as Risotto allo Zafferano.
If there were a one word summation for the magnificence of this dish (it wouldn't be
magnificence, at least not yet), it would be: simplicity. Risotto may be a somewhat delicate endeavor, however in our case, it's the omission of extra ingredients that makes the recipe stand out. The one that does stand out is, of course, the indomitable saffron. Not only does it give the rice a sunny gold color, it adds just the right amount of flavor to the entire mixture, leaving you with the sense that yes, one pound of saffron is worth the clear-cutting of 75,000 flowers needed to obtain it. The rice heavy focus of agriculture in the north yields not only the coveted aforementioned grains, but a cornucopia of recipes that lend the spotlight to this omnipresent staple of the world. What pasta is to the south, rice is to the north. When combined, it's no wonder that this slender peninsula lends so much to the worldwide spectrum of culinary arts.
And with that, I'm going to enjoy some nice warm risotto and try to take some of the chill out of the crispness of the winter air. Another great big thank you to Nonna Carmen for this dish, which has truly become a winter classic. Until next week....