Risotto cooked al dente, parmigiano that will make your knees buckle, a deceptively light cream sauce with a decadent pinch of saffron. These are the innately superior components that make Florentine cuisine just…somehow better. I can think of no dish that better represents the simple, elegant cuisine of Florence better than these Parmesan risotto cakes with saffron sauce. A bite invokes the super-human grandeur of the Duomo, the silky finish of the saffron-laden sauce will haunt you like the gaze of the David. I’ve loved many cities but Florence is the only place that has truly stolen my heart, and her cuisine did not exempt me in that theft. Situated in the heart of Tuscany, Florence is the meeting place of all manner of inhumanly good produce, grains, and meat. Her cuisine is the earnest, elegant, and straightforward manifestation of these spectacular raw ingredients. Enjoy!
For the Risotto
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 white onion
1 cup Carnaroli rice
1/4 cp freshly-grated parmigiano reggiano
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the Sauce
2/3 cup half and half
1 tablespoon of butter
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
Large pinch of saffron
For finishing the dish
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
12 fresh shavings of parmigiano reggiano
2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
1. Prep the risotto cakes
Take your diced onion and run your knife rapidly over the mass a few more times to get a fine mince
Heat the butter in a heavy-bottom pan over medium heat until melted and the butter has just subsided
Add the onion to the hot butter and...
add the rice and...
...sauté for about 4 minutes or until golden
deglaze the pan with the white wine
meanwhile heat the chicken stock to just under simmering over medium-high heat
add one ladel-ful of stock and...
stir over medium heat until completely absorbed by the rice...
once completely absorbed by the rice add another ladel-ful and...
stir over medium heat until...
completely absorbed by the rice.
Repeat the process ladel-ful but ladel-ful taking care that the rice completely absorbes the stock after each addition. SO MANY chefs bastardize risotto by adding the stock all at one making a sort of foie gras risotto-style...which is to say they force feed stock into the rice until it explodes. Risotto is a delicate, elegant grain that needs to have the liquid coaxed into it ever-so-gently. In other words, risotto is a lady, don't rush her. At the final addition add the remaining stock and...
...stir over medium heat until...
...until the stock is completely absorbed. The total time of the additions and absorbtions is about 15 minutes but do it until your rice looks like mine. Be gentle, remember...risotto is a lady.
Add the freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
Stir to combine and add salt and pepper to taste
Transfer to a bowl and add the remaining butter, stir to combine completely and let cool, stirring occasionally until cool and congealed enough to handle when forming into cakes.
2. Meanwhile Prepare the sauce
Over medium heat bring the half and half to just under a boil
Meanwhile in a separate saucepan melt the butter and...
...sprinkle the flour over the butter
Pour the hot half and half over the roux whisking vigorously so that no clumps form. Clumps form easily so WHISK VIGOROUSLY
Add a very healthy pinch of saffron...come on, treat yourself!
Stir again to release the saffron's color. Season to taste with salt and keep warm to serve with the risotto cakes.
Form the Risotto Cakes and Chill
When the risotto is cool enough to handle form 4 equally sized balls. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan and press into 4 equally-sized cakes. Chill in the refrigerator for about two hours or until totally solid.
Sauté the Risotto Cakes and Serve
Heat the butter and olive oil over medium/medium-high heat until the bubbles have just subsided
Place the chilled risotto cakes in the hot butter and oil and sauté for 4-5 minutes on the first side, taking care to get a crispy, fully-caramelized face on the first side before turning.
Carefully turn the risotto cakes over and sauté the other side for another 4-5 minutes.
While you sauté the second side prepare your plates. Take your plate and your hot saffron-cream sauce. Pour about 1/8 cup of the sauce into a disc onto the plate
Place a finished risotto cake onto the sauce on the plate
Pour a little more of the sauce over the cake
Garnish with chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
Finish with 3-4 fresh shavings of parmigiano reggiano