Never thrown out Parmesan cheese rinds. They can be used to make a flavorful stock.
Risotto can only be as good as the stock used to slowly cook the rice. I have almost always opted for chicken stock, but this poses a problem for vegetarians. Sometimes a garlic stock or a stock made with vegetable trimmings like corn cobs will be vibrant enough, but the best vegetarian stock I’ve used to date is made with Parmesan rinds.
I never throw out Parmesan rinds and have a big bag of them in the freezer. Although I use them all the time to add flavor and umami to minestrones, beans and other soups, I’ve only just begun using them to make stock. I based this recipe on Nate Appleman’s recipe for Parmesan brodo in the “Food52 Genius Recipes” cookbook.
The stock couldn’t be easier to make: Simmer Parmesan rinds in water for a couple of hours with some aromatics, then strain and chill the liquid. I recommend that you make it a day ahead so you can remove the waxy layer of fat that settles at the top once the stock has chilled.
The concentrated stock really does have the texture, and even hints at the flavor, of a chicken stock. It’s not vegan, of course, but if you eat cheese, you’ll find that it’s a perfect vegetarian stock to use for risotto. And no risotto will show it off better than this simple, elegant risotto Milanese.
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RISOTTO MILANESE WITH PARMESAN STOCK
Makes 4 to 6 servings
For the broth:
12 ounces Parmesan rinds
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs parsley
3 garlic cloves, crushed
For the risotto:
6 to 7 cups Parmesan broth, as needed
½ teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
1½ cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
½ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1. Make stock: Place Parmesan rinds, bay leaf and thyme in a soup pot or large heavy saucepan and add three quarts water. Bring to a simmer. Skim off foam, cover partly and simmer an hour over very low heat. Add parsley and garlic cloves and continue to simmer 30 minutes, partly covered. Uncover, add salt to taste, and simmer another 30 minutes.
2. Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Strain stock into bowl. Refrigerate it, preferably overnight. Before reheating, remove fat from top and discard. You should have about two quarts broth.
3. Pour broth into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Make sure that it is well seasoned but not overly seasoned, as it will reduce and become saltier. Put saffron in a small bowl and cover with 1 tablespoon hot water.
4. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a wide heavy skillet or saucepan. Add onion and a generous pinch of salt and cook until onion is just tender, about three minutes. Do not brown. Add rice and stir just until grains begin to crackle, one to two minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring, until it has been absorbed.
5. Begin adding simmering broth, a couple of ladles at a time. Add saffron with soaking water with first addition of broth. Broth should just cover the rice and should be bubbling. Stir often and vigorously. When broth has just about evaporated, add another ladle or two to just cover rice. Continue to cook in this way until rice is al dente, about 20 to 25 minutes. Add a little pepper, taste and adjust seasoning.
6. Add another ladleful of broth to the rice. Stir in butter and Parmesan and remove from heat. Mixture should be creamy. Serve right away.