It was in 1979 that I learned that parsley was an actual vegetable, not just a curly, palate-tickling garnish to be left on the plate and thrown away.
I’ll never forget my mentor of that time, Consuelo Accetti,, a rich Milanese medical student who never practiced medicine after getting her M.D. That’s another story…
She would look at our refrigerator (I was living with a roommate, Lenore S. of San Francisco) and berate the absence of greenery, and the next time she came she’d pack along bouquets of parsley and beets and other leafy things we never touched normally.
Later we’d find the dried parsley (Schilling’s) in the garbage can.
The parsley demo consisted of her mincing it super fine, and incorporating it at the last minute in nearly everything we ate except dessert. She went through a bunch every two days.
The first chance I got to live somewhere with a yard, I grew flat-leaf parsley. I cannot even imagine putting the dried stuff on my food anymore.
She SHAMED me in to learning a bit of la bella cucina.
Naturally she insisted we master risotto, she being from Milan.
“Your saffron is not fresh” she’d sniff.
“It should have a date stamped on it” .
The saffron was not just for show, it really had a goldeny flower flavor and we scrounged up the dough to buy a millionth of an ounce of it to keep Consuelo happy.
The result was stupendous: a neon yellow mound of fragrant rice that’s chewy, gooey good.
Permit me to tell you how to do it.
Not exactly as she instructed… but I’m safe here in my hovel and she’s far away, resplendent on her white silk couches and Basquiat on the walls…
Risotto alla Villainese
Melt some butter and olive oil in a wide flattish pan, best if heavy.
Slice garlic (2 cloves) and put in, then take out, eat em to ward off wolves, andfry a finely chopped yellow onion, yes, red would be ok too, ’til golden
Add 2 cups of risotto rice (er, carnaroli or arborio, but hey I’ve used jasmine, Uncle Ben, whatever’s around. Even barley) in it for 3-4 minutes til sort of clearish around edgesthen…
Pour in a ladleful of homemadechicken, turkey, potato peel, lamb, fishheadorbeef stock.
Don’t have them?
Don’t use bouillon cubes, they are junque.
I hack bones and make stock alla time since I have this thing for…stray calories.I have made amazing stock with just the pits of the olives that I just ate…boil them up, you get a lovely blackish briny broth, very flavorful and don’t add another speck of salt to the dish because this stock has all the salt you’d ever need.
OK back to it.
Stirring constantly (that’s the name of the game w/risotto) add stock. Not neccessary that it be pre-warmed. In my book. Which you are staring at.
DON’T GET GREASE ON THE PAGES !!ha ha haoops, yah, back to mystirring oration.
Keep on adding a ladleful of stock in, stirring til absorbed, ad nauseum, sorry: ad slobberum.
Then: remember that wine is supposed to go in there somewhere.
When? Who? What?Have you been enjoying the wine while stirring, and forgotten that a half cup needs into the risotto? Argh.
OK, a quarter cup then.Whatever.
Grate up some dry cheese: dry jack, pecorino, manchego, parmigiano, grandma padano, etc.But if you only have mozzarella, put ‘er there!
JUST STICK SOME CHEESE IN NOW.
About er, two small handfuls. That is, 4 oz, grated or chopped.KEEP STIRRING!Rice sticking to the bottom?
Cover pan for two minutes, turn off heat, let it calm down a bit.
I always use a cast iron skillet for risotto. In fact the coolest skillet in the world lives up at Secret Wombat Hideout. It’s about two feet in diameter, weighs about 20 pounds..you can feed twenty people easily out of that thing…)
Pretty soon the grains are going to be big and chewy and the house is going to smell DIVINE.
Open the doors and let some of it waft out into the neighborhood to claim your territory as a chef.
Passing cyclists will smile, and shop more extravagantly when they alight at the grocer’s…
Thus stimulating the economy, etc. to make up for their pathetic lack of sportmanship from not owning and operating a big SUV and ‘contributing’ to the gross national death oh sorry, I was talking about food, wasn’t I?
Hope it’s not burnt…
Make sure to STOP EVERYTHING when they are ‘al dente’ which means the grains don’t completely dissolve when you bite down, they sort of bite back. Just a little.
I sometimes grate in fresh ginger. My ginger remains fresh and un-moldy cuz it’s in the freezer, doesn’t have to be wrapped.
Add a half cup finely chopped parsely, sometimes it’s adulterated with some cilantro if I ‘ve cleared that ingredient with my victims, er, diners.Grind pepper to taste, and check salt level.
The cheese will always provide a fair hit of NaCl so be careful–but not abstemious–with the salt.
Rosemary salt is great with this risotto (mortar and pestle fresh rosemary leaves pilfed from someone’s hedge)
What about saffron?
Welll, chances are the saffron on yr grocery shelf is two years old.
Would you want to put two year old flower anthers on your food?
I think fresh would be good, but the old stuff…nah..Funny huh, Miss “Used and Overlooked Food” turning her nose up at saffron!But Consuelo ruined me, and all my herbs and spices have to be relatively recently gotten.
Otherwise, it’s just dust.