The history of risotto is the history of Italy itself. While there are many folk legends, rice first came to Italy through trade with the Moors of Spain during the Medieval Age.
The humid climate of Italy quickly proved to be perfect for growing short grained rice. As a result, enormous profits were made by those merchant selling rice in the cities of Genoa and Venice. Initially only the wealthy enjoyed the “exotic” risotto due to its high price.
Once the outside world discovered the high quality of the new rice, orders poured in, the price fell and availability increased, making risotto available to everyone. Soon each Italian city state had its own namesake rice dish.
It was in Milan, however, that rice achieved its highest fame. Because Milan was under Spanish rule for almost two centuries, rice became an enduring staple there. During those many years of occupation, an assortment of additional ingredients were added, many that echoed the contents of Spanish paella. That, of course, included clams - but with a decidedly Italian flair.
RISOTTO MOLLUSCO ALLA MILANESE
- 1 1/2 cups prosecco
- 2 cups water
- 3 pounds Taylor Manila Clams
- 2 1/4 cups jarred clam juice, may substitute fish broth
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium shallot, minced (3 tablespoons)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
- 1 teaspoon finely grated zest and 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
- Combine 1/2 cup of the prosecco and the water in a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a boil over high heat
- Add 16 of the clams.
- Cover and cook/steam until the clams have fully opened, about 5 minutes.
- Discard any that don’t open.
- Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a separate saucepan.
- Add the clam juice and keep warm over low heat.
- Coarsely chop the clams and place them in a bowl, discarding their shells.
- Keep the cooking liquid warm over medium-low heat.
- Add the remaining cup of prosecco to the saucepan.
- Prepare the grill for indirect heat.
- Using a gas grill, preheat on high.
- Put the chips in a small smoker box or foil packet poked with a few fork holes to release the smoke.
- Set it between the grate and the briquettes, close to the flame.
- Once smoking, reduce the heat to medium-high (450 degrees).
- Turn off the burners on one side.
- Place the remaining clams on a rimmed baking sheet and carry that to the grill.
- Once smoke appears, place the clams on the indirect-heat side of the grate and close the grill lid, with the vents open about a quarter of the way.
- Once the clams are fully open, after 6 to 8 minutes, continue grilling for about 1 minute.
- Use long-handled tongs to transfer the opened clams to the baking sheet, being careful to keep as much of their liquor in the shells as possible.
- Reserve the clams in their shells.
- Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.
- Once the oil is shimmering, stir in the shallot and garlic; cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add salt and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Stir for a few seconds.
- Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
- Add a cup of the warm prosecco-clam cooking liquid and the lemon juice.
- Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is almost completely absorbed.
- Add the remaining prosecco-clam cooking liquid and any residual liquor from the smoked clams, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until almost absorbed.
- Repeat until all or nearly all of the liquid has been used.
- The risotto should be creamy yet retain a hint of al dente (bite).
- When adding the last 1/2 cup of liquid, add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, butter, parsley, grated lemon zest and the reserved chopped clams.
- Stir gently to incorporate.
- Divide the risotto among individual warmed bowls.
- Top each portion equally with the smoked clams in their shells.