Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Risotto-Not as Hard as You Would Think!

Good morning!  Another beautiful spring day!  At least it better be.  It snowed here yesterday and that was totally unacceptable.  You hear that Mother Nature?  Unacceptable!  The rest of the week should be better….I guess this is spring in the Sierras.  Oh well, at least it gives me more time to get bathing suit ready;)
Yesterday, I made one of my husband’s favorites for dinner…..Chicken Caprese Risotto.  I thought I would share the recipe with you for one main reason.  Well Ok….2 reasons.  The first is because it is amazing, but the other reason is because I want to show you that risotto is actually really easy to make.  I think that a lot of people are intimidated by it, but I promise….it is easy!  You don’t spend hours at your stove stirring, stirring and more stirring.  It takes about 20 minutes, and yes…you can step away from your stove.  I’m not saying you can walk the dogs, or put in hot rollers, but you can walk away for a bit.
I use part of a rotisserie chicken for this recipe, but it is a perfect recipe to use up grilled chicken that you may have left over.  A “Caprese” salad is mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, and all three of those are featured in this recipe.  I just took the salad out….you know I don’t be messin’ with salads;)
In my recipe, I use rice, chicken stock, white wine (any kind), a shallot, parmesan cheese, garlic, and the aforementioned chicken, mozzarella, basil and tomatoes.  Normally Arborio rice is used in a risotto, but my local grocery store was out.  I substituted a short grain rice, which works just as well.  You can really use any short or medium grain rice.  These are starchier then a long grain.  The starch is what makes a risotto.  As the rice cooks, it releases the starches which makes it creamy, without needing to add cream.  So bottom line, shoot for Arborio, but stay away from long grain.
I prefer to use chicken stock, as opposed to chicken broth.  I think it has a richer flavor.  You can find chicken stock right by the broth.  Or…you can be overly ambitious and make your own.  Good luck.
The mozzarella I used was fresh and it was in little “pearls”.  You can use any fresh, just cut it down to size if needed.
I started the recipe by putting the diced shallot in a large sauté pan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  I also used my fancy garlic press to press the garlic in.  If you don’t have a garlic press, just mince it really fine.  I let this cook for a few minutes, just until it is translucent.  Don’t brown the shallot….just let it sweat a bit.
The next step is to add the rice.  I cook the rice for a few minutes with no liquid.  I stir it around in the fat and shallots/garlic while it cooks.  The rice will get a bit toasty, which helps with the flavor.  When it is ready for the first of the liquid, the rice will start to look translucent.  You should recognize this by now, since we did the same thing with the shallot;)
The first liquid I add is the white wine.  I used Chardonnay that I already had in the fridge.  You cook the rice in the wine, over medium heat, until it is almost all absorbed.  You will need to stir occasionally.  This will take about 2 minutes.  The rice will start to look dry, like it needs more liquid.  It is screamin’ for it!
See how the liquid is absorbed?  Now it time to start adding the broth.  I had been heating the broth in a separate pot.  You want to add warm broth to the rice…..I add it by ladleful, about 2 at a time.  Same idea as with the wine.  You will stir occasionally, and add more when the liquid is absorbed.
After about 20 minutes, you will have probably gone through about 4 cups of broth.  Taste the rice…it should be cooked by now.  It will look like porridge.  It will be thick and creamy.
At this point, I add parmesan cheese.  I grate mine right in.  It will melt in and make the risotto even creamier.
I stirred in the chicken and tomatoes that had already been chopped into bite sized pieces.  My chicken was still warm, since it was fresh off the bone….and fresh off the grocery store warming shelf.  I also stirred in the mozzarella, which was drained of its liquid.
At the last minute, right before serving….I add the basil.  I wanted to keep the basil as fresh tasting as possible, so it is a last minute addition.  Do you know how to cut basil?  Stack up a bunch of leaves and roll them up, lengthwise.  Then cut across.  You will get ribbons of basil.  This is called a chiffonade.  Fancy;)
Yum!  You can see how creamy it is….even in the picture.  My whole family loves this…even the kids.  They are willing to overlook the slight wine taste if there is a bunch of cheese;) 
I hope you make this just so you can see how easy risotto is to make at home.  I didn’t stand at the stove stirring constantly.  I had to step away to feed the dogs, answer the front door, change the TV channel, etc.  It does take some effort, but it is so, so worth it!  I hope you try it!

Chicken Caprese Risotto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 & ½ cups Arborio rice
½ cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup grilled chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
½ cup basil, torn or cut into ribbons
¾ cup fresh mozzarella, cut into bite sized pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat stock in a pot, over low to medium heat.
In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil.  Add shallot and garlic and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add rice and stir to coat in oil.  Cook rice over medium heat until translucent.
Add wine to rice and stir.  Cook until wine is absorbed.  Add warm broth, about ¼ cup to ½ cup.  Stir and cook until broth is absorbed, on medium to medium high heat.  Repeat with remaining broth, adding ¼ cup to ½ cup at a time.  After about 20 minutes, the rice will be cooked.
Add parmesan cheese and stir.  Add remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste.

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