Risotto is one of my favorite dishes. After moving to Croatia, I quickly realized that this country is a risotto mecca. Admittedly, it was my own ignorance that misled me into thinking risotto was strictly an Italian specialty. I humbly stand corrected.
Croatians make absolutely incredible risotto. The black ink cuttlefish risotto is practically a work of art. But, today we are going to oggle the magnificent twelve-hour risotto of Skradin aka Skradinski rižot.
Skradin is a small town nestled in an inlet between the Krka river and the national park of the same name in Šibenik-Knin county, an hour or so northwest of Split. This petite town is surrounded by pine trees, vineyards, and a marina packed with towering sailboats reaching for the sky.
It is in this hidden away town where they make some stupendous risotto…and it takes about 12 hours to make. It is traditionally made in a huge pot over an open fire. As men in Croatia typically handle cooking when a fire is involved, Skradin risotto is the responsibility of the men folk.
This risotto is not made in small batches for a weeknight dinner. Cooking the risotto is an event. It is a well-orchestrated symphony of ingredients, patience, finesse and camaraderie. Men circle the pot, leading the concerto to build the layers of flavor over the course of hours while they imbibe in local brew and laughter.
There is no strict recipe. Just like every specialty of Croatia, every family and cook has their own twist. Family recipes date back generations. Only the basics remain the same.
Onions are slowly cooked in olive oil. Then veal shoulder and a luxurious rooster stock is added and cooked for hours until the meat melts apart. Sometimes a little ham is added to further richen the stock. The rice is only added towards the end once the stock and meat have married in flavor. It is finished with a substantial addition of Paški Sir, a cheese from the nearby island of Pag.
For our first taste of Skradin risotto, we visited Konoba Cantinetta. The risotto had to be ordered 3 days in advance. In response to how much they should make for us, we said “just make us a huge pot”. No defined measurements needed.
Once we sat down at the table, the risotto and wine just kept coming until we’d finished the entire pot. I think our stomachs grew 3 sizes that day, as letting any of it go to waste would have been traitorous behavior.
Is the risotto all it’s cracked up to be?
Yes, definitely. Get you some.