I have singer/songwriter/fiddler Amanda Shires, who I interviewed for Paste Food, to thank for inspiring me to make saffron risotto. I can't believe there was a time in my life when saffron risotto was not in my life, but those dark ages are behind me now. Put them behind you, too.
Saffron Risotto (A big batch, so you can serve 2 or 3 and have leftovers to make risotto cakes. You do want to make risotto cakes. More on this in the next post).
5 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, finely minced (you want about 1/2 cup of minced shallot)
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry sherry or dry white wine
5-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Generous 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Generous pinch cayenne pepper (not traditional, but very good)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful parsley, minced finely
In a large deep skillet, melt 3 tablespoons butter (or warm olive oil) over medium heat. Add shallot with a pinch of salt and stir until it sizzles. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not brown.
Add arborio rice and stir well to coat with butter (or oil) and shallots. Continue to cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes.
Add sherry or wine, 2 cups of broth, saffron, and cayenne. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to medium and stir until all liquid is absorbed into rice.
Add broth, about a 1/2 cup at time, keeping the mixture at a good simmer, stirring frequently, and allowing liquid to absorb before adding more broth. This whole process will take about 20 minutes. Stirring is important to evenly cook the rice and prevent burning.
After you've added about 5 cups of broth you can start taste-testing the risotto--it should be slightly al dente. I usually end up using about 5 1/2 cups of broth total, but you might use more or less, you have to feel it out, and you have to taste it.
Once risotto is done and liquid is absorbed, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil and parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. If risotto seems dry, stir in a little more broth, you want it very slightly on the wet side.
Garnish with parsley and serve hot. Try to have about 3 cups of leftovers for risotto cakes.