By Executive Chef at Maison Boulud, Riccardo Bertolino
I was 16 and still in cooking school, working at the restaurant in the Bellevue Hotel in Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites, when my chef asked me to make a risotto.
I didn’t have a clue how to do it properly, and he realized that right away when he saw me reach for a frying pan. Passion and good ingredients are essential to a great risotto. But you won’t get there without proper technique—which takes a lot of practice. You need focus, patience, timing—and taste. So, making risotto doesn’t just make me think of growing up in Italy and learning how to cook, it also embodies my vision of the culinary arts and the profession of cooking in general. Once you master risotto, satisfaction is guaranteed—as long as you have a good stock. I always have that in my home kitchen, along with the other risotto essentials—rice, saffron, butter and Parmesan. I like to use veal marrow. While chanterelles and black trumpet mushrooms are favourites of mine, when I made this one at my place I used girolles and Caesar’s mushrooms—ovoli or Amanita Caesarea. My girlfriend, Isabel Bordeleau, is the sommelier at Maison Boulud, and she paired my risotto with a Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1980. It was outstanding!
– Riccardo Bertolino
- 1 kg (about 2 lb) veal marrow bones, cut into 7 cm (3-inch) pieces
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 250 mL (1 cup) of mirepoix (equal parts diced leeks, carrot and celery)
- 3 sage leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 L (about 12 cups) veal stock
- 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
- 200 g (7 oz) chanterelles, cleaned and trimmed—trimmings reserved
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tbsp minced shallots
- 1 small sprig rosemary
- 2 sage leaves
- 30 mL (1 oz) Madeira (or white wine)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp minced chives
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 250 g (9 oz or about 1²⁄³ cups) minced Spanish onion
- 350 g (13 oz or about 1¾ cups) Carnaroli Rice
- 90 mL (3 fl oz) white wine
- 2 saffron powder sachets (0.125 g each)
- Pinch of saffron pistils
- Salt and white pepper
- 200 g (7 oz) unsalted butter, diced
- 100 g (3 oz) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 tbsp minced Italian parsley
- 1 tbsp fruity extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Micro-planed lemon zest
A couple of days before making the risotto, place the veal bones in a large non-reactive container, cover with salted cold water, and refrigerate. Change the water every eight hours or so, until all the blood has flushed out of the marrow. When the water stays clear, rinse the veal bones under cold water, drain and set aside. Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the oil on medium low, and sweat the mirepoix and reserved mushroom trimmings until wilted and soft. Add the sage, bay leaves and marrow bones. Follow with the veal stock (it should completely cover the bones). Raise heat and bring to the boil. Remove from heat, cover, and transfer to the oven for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Strain the stock into a fresh pot. Discard the sage and mushroom trimmings and reserve the vegetable mirepoix at room temperature. Use a small spoon to scoop the marrow from the bones, and reserve, covered, at room temperature (discard bones).
Heat the oil in a skillet on medium, add the mushrooms, and sweat until they drop their liquid and it reduces to syrup. Add the butter, garlic, shallots, sage and rosemary. Raise heat and deglaze with the wine. Season, stir in chives, and set aside.
To make the risotto, first heat flavoured veal stock to a bare simmer. In a large saucepan or sauté pan, heat the olive oil on low. Sweat the onion until it begins to soften—but do not colour. Add the rice and stir frequently. Toast the rice for one minute—but do not allow it to colour. Add the white wine and stir until it is reduced to syrup. Add warm stock to cover, stirring continuously. Add the saffron and the reserved mirepoix strained from the veal stock. Keep stirring. Whenever the liquid gets low, add another small ladle of stock to cover the rice. Continue stirring and adding liquid until the rice is al dente—about 15 minutes. Season with a little salt and white pepper as you go. When the rice is done to your liking, and the consistency is creamy, remove pot from the heat and stir in the butter, marrow and Parmigiano Reggiano and stir well, to obtain the traditional “all onda” texture. Finish with the parsley, olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice. Taste, and correct seasonings. Serve on warm plates. Finish each portion with a scattering of mushrooms and a little lemon zest.