THREE bottles of saffron and FIVE bottles of sesame seeds. That's what I found when I cleaned out my spice cabinets. Oh, I had other spices hoarded in there, but the saffron and sesame seeds just happened to be the worst. Three bottles of saffron? Five bottles of sesame seeds? Good grief.
How in the world did I accumulate so much of each and what on earth was I going to do with it all?
My new kitchen mission, PROJECT SAFFRON AND SESAME SEED. I've been researching recipes and making lists to help use up my collection. My reward is going to be a total rehaul of my spice cabinet.
So, first up is Ruth Reichl's Risotto Milanese, a simple Italian recipe straight out of Milan. A creamy and comforting rice dish with a beautiful yellow hue thanks to one exotic ingredient: saffron. I thought the risotto was extremely pleasing to the eye with a mild flavor, very cheesy and buttery. People have described the taste of saffron as floral, earthy, grassy, sweet, or honey-like. I've never really felt like it had much of a taste. Maybe only slightly. If you ask me, I think saffron is mostly used for the beautiful golden hue it creates.
Either way, this is a very family-friendly dish that adults and kids would enjoy. I think it would pair well with almost any meat, fish, or veggie. I highly recommend this if you have some saffron hanging around that needs using up and/or if you're looking for a pretty dish with some "wow" factor. I would definitely make this again!
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
scant 1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
salt and pepper, to taste
Combine stock and water in a 2-to 3-quart saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Transfer 1 cup stock to a measuring cup and stir in saffron until dissolved (I didn't stir until dissolved because I wanted to see the saffron threads). Leave all the stock on the stovetop so that it stays warm.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup stock mixture (without saffron) and cook at a strong simmer, stirring frequently, until stock is absorbed. Continue adding stock in 1/2 cup increments, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, for 10 minutes.
Then begin adding the saffron broth and simmer, stirring, until absorbed. Continue to add stock mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, 18 to 25 minutes total. You may or may not have stock left over. This is ok.
When the rice is al dente, add 1 tablespoon of butter and the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Stir these into the rice. Take the rice off the heat before all the liquid is absorbed. Risotto should not be dry and should have some liquid remaining when served. Serve immediately. Diners should be ready and waiting to eat. Best served piping hot!