15 February 2011

15 February - Saints Faustinus and Jovita; Risotto alla Milanese

Today is the feast of Saints Faustinus and Jovita (or Jovinus), brothers who were martyred in the 2nd century under Hadrian.  Like Valentine before them, nothing is really known about them except their martyrdom.

Tradition says that they were great and fearless preachers in Brescia (Lombardy, northern Italy) and zealous in all good works.  Faustinus was a priest and Jovita was a deacon.  The brothers were denounced to the authorities as Christians and ordered to worship the sun; they replied that they worshiped only God, who created the sun as a light for man.  At that, they were subjected to various tortures: thrown to the lions, who would not touch them; starved in prison, but received heavenly succor; and finally beheaded.

[Don't look for them on the General Calendar - like Valentine and Apollonia and several others, they have been sent to Saint Limbo, which means "removed from the calendar and cultus suppressed".]
A good entree for dinner tonight in honor of these two saints would be something from Brescia.  Catholic Culture has a recipe for Risotto alla Bresciana which was enjoyed by Pope Paul VI in his younger days.  Or you can try this recipe for the classic RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE (from Milan, which is just down the road from Brescia).

  • Rub 1 cup of rice well in a clean towel. (If you can get Italian rice, use that; otherwise, use the rice you are used to cooking)
  • Mince 1 onion and 1/2 clove of garlic.
  • Heat 3 to 4 cups of chicken stock, chicken broth, or bouillon to just simmering; remove from heat and keep hot.
  • Soak a pinch of powdered saffron (1/16 teaspoon powdered or substitute 1/8 teaspoon threads) in 2 tablespoons of white wine.
  • Cut up dried mushrooms to equal 1/2 cup.

In a saucepan or skillet (with a cover), melt 2 tablespoons of butter; then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  When it is hot, add the rice and stir well to coat; then spread it evenly over the pan to cook to a golden translucency, stirring frequently (don't want it to scorch or burn).  This will take about 3 - 4 minutes; halfway through, add the onion and garlic and let them brown as well.

If you prefer, you can add 1/2 cup of white wine to the rice, stir, and allow to cook for 3 minutes, before going on to the next step.

Add 1 cup of the hot stock to the rice, along with the saffron/wine and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook slowly, without stirring, adding another cup of hot stock to the rice when the first has cooked away (the entire cooking time will take between 20 to 30 minutes).  Meanwhile, soak the mushrooms in a little hot stock for 10 minutes, then add them and the stock to the rice.

When all of the stock has been used and the rice is tender and moist, lightly stir in 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.  If desired, put a large lump of butter (2-3 tablespoons) on top of the cooked rice.  Serve with more cheese.