08 May 2012

8 May - Saint Victor of Milan; Risotto alla Milanese

Weather – If it rains on the 8th of May, it foretells a wet harvest.

At Milan, the birthday of the holy martyr Victor, a Moor.  He became a Christian in his youth, and served as soldier in the imperial army.  When Maximian wished to force him to offer sacrifice to idols, he persevered with the greatest fortitude in the confession of the Lord.  Being first beaten with rods, but without experiencing any pain, through the protection of God, and then having melted lead poured over him, which did him no injury whatever, he at length terminated the career of his glorious martyrdom by being beheaded. 

Victor was a native of the Roman province of Mauretania (roughly modern Morocco) and a soldier in the Roman army, born sometime in the 3rd century, probably around 250.  He had been a practicing Christian from his youth, likely during one of those periods of relative peace when the persecutions of Christians abated.

He was stationed at Mediolanum (modern Milan) – at that time the capital of the Western Roman Empire – in 303 when the edicts of the Emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius ushered in the Great Persecution.  Christians lost all legal rights and were ordered to sacrifice to the Roman gods, on pain of death.   Christians in positions of authority, including soldiers, lost their standing, their livelihoods, and their pensions.  Victor was one of the first denounced for his faith; refusing to deny his Lord, he was subjected to various tortures (the list of which grew longer with every telling).  Emperor Maximian did all that he could to make the old soldier apostatize but failed, and finally condemned him to execution by beheading.

You can read the medieval Passion of St. Victor here.

Victor is the titulary saint of North Italy – his patronage extends over many towns and cities in the region, not forgetting the place of his martyrdom.  In his honor, have Risotto alla Milanese.


Heat 3 - 4 cups of chicken stock or bouillon.
Mince 1 small onion and ½ clove of garlic.
Soak a pinch of powdered saffron in 2 tablespoons of white wine, and set aside.  If any wine remains in the bottle, pour it in a glass for the cook.
Wash ½ cup of dried mushrooms. Soak them in a little hot stock or bouillon for about 10 minutes. Remove from bouillon, cut them up, and set both aside.
Grate ½ cup of Parmesan cheese.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, then stir in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  When heated, add 1 cup of raw rice.  Stir to coat the rice, then spread it evenly on the bottom of the pan and allow it to brown, stirring frequently to keep it from burning.

When rice is nearly browned, add the onion and garlic, and allow them to brown.

To the rice, add 1 cup of the hot bouillon, the saffron/wine, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and cook over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes WITHOUT STIRRING.  Add more bouillon when the first cupful cooks away.

In the last 10 minutes of the rice’s cooking, add the mushrooms and the bouillon in which they soaked.

When all of the bouillon has been added, and the rice is tender and dry, put a lump of butter on top (the original recipe says “the size of a walnut” which to me is about 2 – 3 tablespoons).  Sprinkle with the Parmesan and stir lightly to mix.

And serve.

Artwork: Il Sodoma (Giovanni Antonio Bazzi), Saint Victor, 1529, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena
found in: Mrs. Arthur Bell, Lives and Legends of the Great Hermits and Fathers of the Church (1902), p. 75