I’ve just recently written about our younger golden retriever Alix. So, it’s only fair that I now dedicate a post to our first and older golden, Sascha. Regular readers will remember this big white fluffy kitchen shark from a previous post in which I wrote about her penchant for stealing food off our kitchen counter. S and I bought Sascha in March 2000 and while Alix is an adorable, perpetually happy and overly friendly little tyke, Sascha’s somewhat distant. Actually, she’s just plain aloof. Unless you happen to be eating. Then, this snooty, sophisticated pooch becomes the sweetest thing in the whole wide world. She’ll stare at you with big brown eyes. Her tongue will be hanging out of her mouth–which, oddly enough, will be upturned into what looks like a big, toothy smile. Her ears will be adorably perky and her tail will be wagging enthusiastically. She’ll have one paw extended, hoping that you’ll reward her with a savory treat. Quite simply, where Alix is lazy, Sascha is just plain greedy.
S claims that Sascha eats like a man. She likes meat, more meat and sweet desserts. Put a cherry tomato in front of her, and she might pick it up with her mouth, but she’ll just as quickly spit it out. This greedy gourmet doesn’t like fruits and vegetables–unless, that is, they’ve been cooked in some kind of meat sauce. However, when she gets her paws on exactly what she wants, she eats it voraciously and quickly. And once she’s finished, she’ll toss you a look and proudly saunter off in search of another tasty morsel or a little “alone time”.
A dish that S and I both agree quite accurately reflects the rather carnivorous, yet snooty, tastes of our beloved older pooch is Osso Buco with Risotto alla Milanese. And in her honor, we whipped together a small batch–which, of course, we shared with her fuzzy Highness. I love a good Osso Buco. I adore the heartiness of the fork-tender meat that’s been lovingly braised in tomatoes and white wine. And I love the risotto that it’s traditionally paired with. Flavored with saffron and punched up with parmesan and butter, a really well-made Risotto alla Milanese is hard to beat.
For this classic dish, S and I split the cooking tasks. She handled the more arduous task of preparing the veal shanks while I took command of the risotto–something I’m particularly fond of making. For the Osso Buco, S turned to a recipe from Molly Stevens’ All About Braising. Ms Stevens’ recipe is interesting for a number of reasons: It uses a relatively small amount of liquid; she adds orange zest and fennel to the braising liquid as well, which gives the meat and the sauce a fruity, subtly anise-inflected accent; and she recommends finishing the shanks off by topping them with gremolata and returning them to the oven uncovered for 15 minutes. Because the recipe is long–it covers 4 pages in Ms Steven’s fantastic cookbook–I’ve decided not to transcribe it here. I do, however, wholeheartedly recommend buying this cookbook. Every recipe in it that S and I have tried has been fantastic. It really is one of those must-have books.
I love making risotto. Making it is incredibly therapeutic. And when done well, the result is marvelously delicious. I love the satiny smooth texture of it on the tongue. I love the rich, buttery, cheesy taste. Of course, good risotto must also be made with homemade stock–using that powdered stuff just won’t cut it. These days, when I make risotto, I can pretty much work on auto-pilot. I’ve made it often enough that I don’t need to refer to any cookbook. For reference though, I’ve decided to share with you the recipe that appears in Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers’ The River Cafe Cook Book. This recipe is entirely dependable, producing excellent, delectable results.
Making this last batch was especially rewarding because a good friend had recently given us some lovely Iranian saffron that she had bought on a recent trip. Saffron, as many of you know, is the most expensive spice in the world. And Iranian saffron, prized for its fragrance, color and flavor, is considered the very best. Of course, I couldn’t resist using it in this risotto.
The Osso Buco with Risotto alla Milanese turned out just as we had hoped. In honor of our principessa pooch, S and I plated it in small, elegant portions. Just a few spoonfuls of the risotto at the bottom of a shallow dish, with a small portion of the meat, off the bone, placed over the rice.
Risotto alla Milanese
from The River Cafe Cook Book
300g arborio rice
1 litre chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in a bit of stock
75ml extra dry white vermouth
175g parmesan, freshly grated
Heat the chicken stock. Melt 75g of the butter and all the oil in a large saucepan. Gently fry the onion until soft. Add the rice, and off the heat, stir until the rice becomes totally coated; this takes only a minute. Return to the heat, add 2 or so ladlefuls of hot stock and simmer, stirring, until the rice has absorbed nearly all the liquid. Add the saffron. Continue to add more stock as the previous addition is absorbed. Nearly all the stock will have been absorbed by the rice; each grain should have a creamy coating and yet still be al dente. Add remaining butter in small pieces, the vermouth and the parmesan, being careful not to overstir. Serve.