Typically the variety of risotto that Italians add saffron to is a risotto that isn't served "primo" (first course). Risotto with saffron in it is served as a main and usually with osso buco (veal). But, when I cook risotto in this house all I make is risotto and that is the main course itself. Perhaps some day, when the Sprout and the Sweet Pea are teenagers and eating more we'll explore the option of having larger meals but for now, the 3 year old is still eating like a flea.
I have posted a recipe for a basic run of the mill risotto before, one that would appeal to anyone's palate. Saffron kinda smells like metallic honey and tastes kind of like sweet hay. This is an acquired taste that not everyone will enjoy, the real key is to get your hands on GOOD saffron. Being that most of the saffron produced in the world comes from Iran...this can be a challenge. Good saffron can cost an arm and a leg for a good amount of it, but you can find it in tiny amounts and large amounts in various places. I swear...I just saw some at Target the other day and I know you can get it from World Market, but your best bet is to go to a grocer that sells Middle Eastern groceries. It is there in abundance and the price is MUCH lower because they are direct buying it most of the time rather than getting it from a "middle man".
One final note, the whole process of cooking risotto can take 30-45 minutes. Make sure you have the proper time to dedicate to this dish so you don't get rushed or fall behind with whatever else you may be serving.
4-6 c. organic chicken or beef stock (stock NOT broth!!)
6 T. of vegan buttery spread
2 ounces of pancetta or bacon, diced
1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 tsp. saffron threads
1 c. + 1/2 c. for garnish fresh parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
In a medium sized saucepan, heat up your stock and leave it on a low heated simmer. You should be adding warm/hot stock to the rice as you cook it, not room temperature.
In a large heavy saute pan on medium heat, melt the butter and saute your pancetta/bacon and onion for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent but NOT browned. Letting them brown will ruin the risotto by turning the onions bitter.
Add the rice and stir it to coat it with the butter, then add the wine and cook it all for about 2 minutes or until the smell of alcohol has left the pan. Begin to add stock to the rice pan 1 cup at a time. With the first addition of stock add in the saffron, salt and pepper. Stir the rice and allow it to simmer until the stock is absorbed. This might take as long as 10 minutes. After the first cup is absorbed, add another cup. After each addition wait until the previous cup of stock is absorbed before adding the next one.
KEEP TRYING your risotto to assess the level of bite left to your rice. You want it to be al dente...not mush. Al dente means cooked, but still slightly firm...just how you want pasta.
When the risotto is finished turn the heat off and add 1 c. of the grated parmesan cheese. If you wish to garnish the risotto with more cheese plate the risotto first.
I can hardly express how much I am in LOVE with this version of risotto. I have come to believe it is mostly due to the fact that there is bacon in there. Italian bacon....but bacon nonetheless! Between the flavors of the saffron, pancetta and faint taste of white wine...I just close my eyes and I am in another dimension when I eat this risotto. I love how starchy and hearty risotto is, which is why I typically serve it as a main dish. It is filling all on its own in my opinion. For those at the table that have larger appetites than the Sprout and I do, I serve this with medium sized pieces of baguette garlic bread. We love this dish in our home! Do NOT be intimidated by this dish...sure, Gordon Ramsay yells at folks on Hell's Kitchen when they get it wrong...but it isn't that hard to do correctly. You aren't under any pressure by anyone to be perfect in the kitchen...just have fun!!