Budget Calrose Risotto Milanese (To Go With Budget Oxtail Osso Buco)

The other day, I posted my Budget Oxtail Osso Buco recipe.

Well, it doesn't make sense to save all that money on your Osso Buco and not do the same with the Risotto Milanese that goes with it, right? :D

Sorry so orange-ish. My nighttime lighting setup when I
took this pic was a little whack. :/

Where I live, I can usually buy Calrose rice (the kind that's a staple in both Korean and Japanese cuisines, including most sushi) for somewhere between $1 to $2 per pound. Arborio rice, which is the kind typically used for risotto, is somewhere between $6 to $10 per pound.

To be clear, Calrose is not a perfect substitute for Arborio. Calrose is a medium grain, where Arborio is a short grain. Generally speaking, the shorter the grain, the sweeter, glossier and stickier the rice. If you were to make a side by side comparison of risotto made with the two different rices, you'd probably detect some difference. And you'd certainly detect a difference if the two kinds were just steamed.

But what closes a bit of the gap here is the stirring. When you stir, as you so often must do in the risotto making process, the agitation releases some of the sugars and starches in the grains of rice, creating a similarly velvety sauce around the grains that's a big part of what makes risotto so comforting and luxurious to us at the same time.

It lacks a bit of the residual bite that Arborio has, but I'm guessing in the overall experience of the Osso Buco and risotto together, only the pickiest and most persnickety of us will deny themselves enjoyment for a need to feel special. :P

As to the safflower/Mexican saffron substitution, you're not going to get the subtle but distinct flavor of saffron in the risotto, and if that's a deal breaker for you, perhaps that's where the strategic splurge comes in. (Likewise, if you don't care about the flavor of saffron so much, but really want the chew of Arborio, maybe you use the safflower and shell out for the Arborio.) BTW, you can easily find Mexican saffron in the spice section of a Mexican/Latino grocer or buy it online.

The truth is, if only for a single meal, none of these substitutions are going to do you much good in the long run. But a fabulously frugal life is built on many more of these kinds of sensible compromises over time with the occasional but totally worthwhile splurge.

Stepping off my soapbox to give you that recipe now...

Calrose Risotto Milanese
Serves 4-ish
Time: About 60 minutes

If you're daunted about making risotto, just remember that once you've sauteed the aromatics and toasted the rice, it's really just a matter of covering the rice with liquid, letting it cook, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed, then repeating the process until the rice is at the desired doneness, which for most is basically each individual grain cooked through and not more.

Recipes are all over the place when it comes to the amount of liquid to rice for risotto. And it's understandable given not only the variability of people's preferences for texture and soupiness but also given that the weather, the temperature of the stock, and the depth of the cooking vessel all contribute to the amount of stock required to achieve the desired texture.

Once your rice is thoroughly cooked through, it's pretty much up to your preference as to how dry or wet you want the risotto, but I would caution going beyond the point where the individual grains are no longer distinct.

Also, despite the many Top Chef and Chopped risotto fuckups that make us think we should never dare make risotto for anyone but the most loving and forgiving people in our lives, it's my experience that if the seasoning is right and the rice is cooked through but not pasty, you're going to make most people happy.

- 4 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable stock/broth
- 2 teaspoons safflower (Mexican saffron) threads or a good pinch of saffron threads if you've got 'em
- 2 shallots or 1/2 yellow onion, minced
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons + 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup Calrose rice
- 1/2 cup white wine (doesn't matter the kind, just something not too sweet)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to start
- 1/4 to 1/3 cut grated Parmigiano Reggiano

1) In a small pot separate from the one in which you're going to make your risotto bring your chicken or vegetable stock up to a boil, add the safflower or saffron, stir, then turn the heat down as low as it will get and keep it warm.

2) In a separate large saucepan, pot or deep saute pan, melt 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter with the oil over medium heat.

3) Add shallots or onion and saute until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.

4) Add rice, stir thoroughly and toast it for 3 minutes or so, allowing the rice to sit undisturbed for 20 to 30 seconds at a time between stirs to ensure the grains get properly toasted. This toasting process will help the grains maintain their shape and texture, which helps to prevent aforementioned paste.

5) Turn heat up to medium high, add wine and salt and cook the rice, stirring gently but often, until the wine is absorbed.

6) Ladle in enough stock to cover the rice and let it cook, stirring gently but often, until the stock is absorbed.

7) Repeat this process until the rice is just cooked through. If you've tasted a few grains and they're ok but you still see signs of opaqueness in the center of some grains, you want to make sure those grains are also cooked through.

8) When rice is *just* done, take it off the heat, add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter and the grated cheese, and give it a few brisk stirs until all the cheese is melted. If at this point you think you'd like your risotto slightly more soupy/saucy, add 1/4 cup stock, stir it in, and serve right away.

Despite all the attention to getting the perfect texture when you make it the first day, leftovers are still delicious the next day warmed up with just a little more stock or even a splash of milk or cream, as you can see. :)

Buon appetito once again, peeps! :)


For the full cooking album (including the Osso Buco) click HERE.



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