Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lemon Chicken Risotto

I'm back from Russia and it has been amazing! Not only did I learn a huge amount about another language and culture but I picked up some little known recipes and cooking methods. Part of the challenge was the lack of an oven or toaster; we had 3-6 burners to work with and a limited number of pots and pans. Similarly, when it came to finding ingredients I was left to improvise quite a bit. I wasn't always sure what I was coming home with. But with the ingredients that became available I made it into an interesting culinary and life experience.

About the chicken bit of this recipe -- I've been vegetarian for around 13 years now, more for preference and health reasons than anything else. However, I was cooking for more than one person most of the time and most people want a little meat in their diet. The produkti near our dorms in Moscow carried whole chickens for not a whole lot of cash and this recipe came about. I will admit that I had to have someone else cut up the raw meat and such but the broth added a lot. If you want to skip the chicken just use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and you can leave out the actual meat -- a lot of people like squash or pumpkin as a filler.

What you need:

a large bottomed, shallowish pot
a small stockpot or very large regular pot
4-6 oz ladel
medium frying pan
apx. 2c arborio rice (gotta be arborio)
3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 1/3c white wine
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
2 tbsp oregano
1-2 large chicken breast(s)
1 large lemon
1 1/2c grated parmesan cheese
apx. 3 qt water
4 tbsp salt, or to taste
2 vegetable bouillon cubes

Bring the water in the stock pot to boil; add the salt and bouillon cubes. Cut bite sized pieces off of the chicken breasts, set aside and put the remains (bones with some meat still on them in the stockpot). Let it boil for at least an hour, two or three is ideal but keep an eye on it so it doesn't bubble over.

When the broth tastes right and turns a golden color, turn it to simmer and heat the vegetable oil in the shallow pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent; if they begin to brown immediately after hitting the oil it's too hot. Add the arborio rice and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula until it begins to look translucent -- about three minutes. Add 3/4 of the white wine and stir quickly, it will evaporate fast so once the rice looks "creamy" get your ladel and stock ready.

Add one ladel of stock to the rice mixture and stir -- continue stirring gently until most of the liquid is gone and the rice appears creamy rather than soupy. Continue to do this three or four times.

Around the fourth ladel, start preparing the chicken. Heat a bit of vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add the chicken. Cut the lemon into quarters, remove the seeds and squeeze the juice over the chicken. Throw the rinds in with it. Add the herbs and about a teaspoon of salt, stir with a spatula and cover the skillet with a tight lid. After about five minutes add the remaining white wine and cover again. Get back to the risotto.

Add another ladel of broth -- the rice is done when it's al dente, which takes about 6-8 ladels for this recipe. The only way to really know is to taste it though; it shouldn't be mushy but it also shouldn't be crunchy, good risotto takes about 20-35 minutes total. Just continue adding stock and stirring, stirring, stirring. Check on the chicken and once it's done to your liking remove the lemons, add to the risotto and mix. Ideally, add the chicken before the last ladel of broth goes in.

When all is said and done, serve it hot with parmesan cheese over the top. Some people say to put the cheese over the risotto in the pot and cover for a few minutes but I've found that different people prefer different amounts. It's a long recipe but this has been a crowd pleaser and it's pretty easy to get right!

No comments: