Hungry Ghosts’ Saffron Risotto

It’s October, and I am ready for spooky stories and rich, warm comfort food. I was able to get both at the same time with Hungry Ghosts, a new horror graphic novel written by Joel Rose and Anthony Bourdain before his death. The graphic novel centers around a version of the Japanese Edo period game of Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai–where warriors would gather in a room with 100 candles. Taking turns, they will each tell a scary story and then blow out a candle, until all of the candles are out or they’re too scared to continue. (Think of it as the orginal, much more bad-ass “Are You Afraid of the Dark”.) The stories in Hungry Ghosts focus around food and Japanese spirits and demons and they’re as dark and gory as you’d hope.

The novel includes a guide to the spirits mentioned in the stories and includes five new recipes by Anthony Bourdain inspired by the tales, and many you can enjoy by going to their blog. I’ve been allowed to share one of them, a recipe for delicious, creamy saffron risotto. I always assumed risotto would be difficult to make, but it’s actually fairly simple. It is a bit laborious, as you’re stirring the rice almost constantly throughout, but it’s worth the effort. This risotto warms up your insides and makes you feel ready to take on anything spooky that may come your way. Check out the recipe below:

Hungry Ghosts' Saffron Risotto
  • 1½ quarts chicken stock
  • 6-8 saffron threads
  • ¼ cup Italian extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1½ cups carnaroli rice
  • ½ cup dry Italian white wine
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, cut into chunks
  • ⅓ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt to taste
  1. Combine half the chicken stock and the saffron threads in a small pan and bring to a simmer to draw the flavor, color, and aroma from the threads into the stock.
  2. In a medium-sized pot, gently heat the oil and stir in the onion, taking care to get each piece coated with oil. Cook gently, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent; do not let it brown. Add the rice, stirring carefully so that it’s well distributed with the onions. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, to gently toast the rice. Stir in the wine and take the heat back down to medium-low. Continue to cook, stirring regularly, as the rice eventually absorbs all the wine and the alcohol smell can no longer be detected.
  3. To this mixture, add a ladleful of the warm saffron-infused stock. Continue to stir and add more stock as it becomes absorbed, eventually also adding the reserved, non-infused chicken stock, a ladleful at a time. Once or twice before all of the stock is absorbed, check the rice for its state of doneness: at the end, it should yield to the bite and be cooked all the way through, but still maintain its structural integrity.
  4. Now, assess the texture of the risotto. Is it runny enough to cover the bottom of a bowl without coaxing? If not, stir in a little more stock until it’s the correct consistency.
  5. Now, add the butter chunks and the cheese and beat it with a light hand into the hot rice, incorporating some air and lightening the consistency somewhat as you go. Taste the risotto and season with salt if necessary. Serve immediately with the osso buco (see recipe in book).
  6. Serves 6 as a side dish.

Are you a fan of creepy stories? Which ones are your go-tos in October?


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