This is just a “short” note to discuss a risotto I ate last night at Il Pastaio,
which for lack of a better word, was @#$% ing Transcendent! Ethereal! Sublime! Exquisite! Celestial!!
In any case, you get the point that it was delicious.
It was this:
Lemon and Saffron Risotto.
The Arborio rice was al-dente- perfectly so.
*Note to TLV “Chefs” – You DO NOT make risotto by putting rice and water into a pan, covering it, and walking away. Testo di Cazzo!!!!!
You must STAND THERE AND STIR IT, CONTINUALLY, THE ENTIRE TIME.
And PS. remember the Italian saying of how to make perfect risotto:
“Rice is born in water, and dies in wine”
This means, add wine to the rice in the pan first- before anything else!
Not water, or the old Israeli favourite- powdered chicken soup concentrate.
I’ll give you guys this helpful tip free of charge!!!!
It was FLAT- which by the way, is EXACTLY the way it is supposed to be!
You aren’t supposed to be able to stack up risotto up in a tall pile!!
(i.e., unlike the SPACKLE which is passed off as risotto everywhere else in Tel-Aviv- soggy, mushy, filled with butter, cheap cheese, and believe it or not usually cream too, and so thick it can be and usually is, put into ring-molds and formed into solid, nasty, mountains- and usually served with some more crap piled on top of that, I might add!!)
It was filled with the delicate taste of both fresh lemons, and the ephemeral fragrance of a very special type of saffron.
Which comes from, well, let’s just say:
“A Nation with whom Israel does not have Diplomatic Ties with”.
It is the best saffron in the world, and if you happen to watch the Istanbul episode of my show, Duet, (here’s a promo clip from here. The clip is in Hebrew, sorry.
The show itself however is in English.
If you happen to live in Asia, Europe, Russia, or Israel, you can see it on tv.
If not, ask GRB media, which is the US distributor, to release it in the US. Thanks!!
There you will see me comment on finding some of it in the market there.
NO ONE here, other than me, uses this stuff, and instead uses the cheap,
C-grade Spanish saffron which has an unmistakably bitter aftertaste.
Did I mention the slight creaminess of EXACTLY the right amount of Parmigiano Reggiano?!
The colour of that heavenly saffron shining like the golden rays of a sunset in Paradise?!
The sighs of sensual delight as we all devoured every last grain of rice and then felt like picking up the plate and licking it?!
Well, in any case, the last time I had a risotto that perfect, it was made by the blessed hands of my legendary saute cook, “Manny” (Manuel)-
A tiny, aggressive, Yucatan Mexican Mayan Indian, who happened as well as being one of the best line cooks I ever had the privilege of working with, was a true master of the art of making a perfect risotto, had a wicked and cynical sense of humour, and was also married to a 6- foot tall Irish redhead who loved to drink and fight almost, well, ok, even more, than Manny himself.
What a Legend!
But I digress: the risotto, made by Manny, that had been burned into my memory as being the best I ever had, up until last night ,
(And p.s. this includes the dozens I have eaten all over Italy)
happened to have been a wild mushroom risotto, made with a mix of pristine wild chanterelles, lobster mushrooms, and porcinis, from the forests of California, and hand-delivered by a bear of a guy who looked like he himself lived in a hollow log in the same forest his precious mushrooms were collected in!!)
Manny, “En Camote” (deep in the S**T ) of a particularly vicious service which included, among other things, tickets rumbling out of the printer like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, RH half-drunk on a bottle of red wine hidden indiscreetly behind the waiter’s buzzer, yet nonetheless expediting perfectly the seething mass of aggression, stress, and fiery madness that was an Enrico’s Friday night dinner rush-
And in the middle of this mayhem, Manny passed down the line to me, as I was working my usual station on the grill, directly in the malevolent, tractor-beam like glare of RH, the leftover remains from a pan of that mythological risotto.
I stuck a spoonful of it in my mouth, in between throwing on the grill a frightening number of duck breasts, tuna steaks, boneless quail, and god knows what else the Evil Expeditor had mercilessly called to me all at once..
And I tell you when that risotto hit my tongue I heard a heavenly chorus of Angels singing!
About 20 minutes later, a waiter comes running in, risking the Wrath of RH by showing his face in the kitchen without being buzzed- warning us that a table of Italians were on their way to the kitchen and they wanted to speak to the chef about the risotto they had just eaten.
“WTF?!” I remember thinking, “what in the name of Batman’s Mother does anyone have to say about the risotto?! It was perfect!”
I turned my attention back to the grill, whose entire surface was by now completely covered, with not a centimeter to spare- yet nonetheless didn’t prevent RH from calling me another 9-10 items which he could see with his own eyes I couldn’t possibly fire, yet still earned me a withering comment referring to my clumsy ineptitude, or something of that nature.. and a dirty look, too!
A few seconds later, 3 Italian guys who looked like they just rolled out of their Villa in Sicily, burst into the kitchen :
“Who made that risotto?!” they demanded, looking around aggressively.
RH turned and fixed them with a scowl frightening enough to turn your blood to ice- and sad “That guy”- pointing to Manny, who at this point was 12 saute pans deep in the middle of a typically colossal fire of orders-
What happened next was a shock, I’ll tell you-
That was 17 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday!
These 3 Italians jumped behind the line, grabbed Manny, and one after the other, kissed him on both cheeks- shouting that they had made a bet that the only person who could have made that perfect risotto was an Italian- and that the waiter told them that not only was Manny NOT Italian- he was a Mayan Mexican Indian- and they had bet him 100$ each that he was lying-
After shaking his hand and giving Manny 100$ as well, they went out of the kitchen in search of the waiter, who had just made a hefty bonus for the evening.. and who Manny himself searched out after the shift to demand a 50% cut of the proceeds that the waiter had earned due to his risotto skills…!!
Well, anyway, as usual, I seem to have gotten distracted, but the point being, is up until last night as I said, Manny’s Risotto was the best I’ve ever had…
So enough of this talking.
Get your A** over to Il Pastaio this instant, and ask Tel-Aviv’s incarnation of Manny- (Moshe- who is chef Itzaac’s sous-chef, who I demanded to meet last night and basically did to him what those Italians did to Manny years ago-)
to make you a risotto- ANY damn type he decides to make-
Although I would highly recommend asking, or outright begging, if necessary, for that saffron and lemon risotto, which I will be dreaming of, with lust and desire in my heart, until next time I am there to eat it again!!!!!