Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cooking My Bookshelves: Chicken Risotto à la Milanese

After a lovely few days with my sister, today was the first day back to normal mealtime. In keeping with my approximately-whenever-I-feel-like-it theme of cooking a recipe or two from every cookbook I own, I chose a book called Cook's Library: One Pot. It's a book printed in China and published in 2002 by Parragon Publishing out of Bath, England. The measurements in the book are given in both metric and American units, so I assume that it is intended for English speaking audiences in general. I can't even remember where I bought it. I tend to pick up odd cookbooks here and there at Sam's Club or discount book stores. I've used the book several times for a Jambalaya recipe and have tried a few others. The dishes tend to be fairly mild, and taste OK, but aren't anything to get all excited about. Still, there it was so I grabbed it, determined to try something new for dinner.

After some perusal (and a quick check for what I had in the pantry), I settled on a recipe entitled "Chicken Risotto à la Milanese." I've made risotto probably about a dozen times. I'm no expert, but the directions were a bit odd. Here's the recipe as written:

1/2 cup butter
2 lb/900 g skinless boneless chicken, sliced thinly
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb/450 g risotto rice
2 1/2 cups chicken bouillon
2/3 cup white wine
1 tsp crumbled saffron
salt and pepper
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, to serve

1. Heat 4 tablespoons of the butter in a deep skillet and cook the chicken and onion until golden brown.
2. Add the rice, stir well, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
3. Heat bouillon until boiling and gradually add to the rice. Add the white wine, saffron, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well. Simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more bouillon if necessary.
4. Set aside for 2-3 minutes and just before serving, add a little more bouillon and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve the risotto sprinkled with the grated Parmesan cheese and the remaining butter.

I don't know about you, but if you've made risotto before you generally heat the broth, add gradually to the rice, stirring regularly until each addition of broth is almost absorbed before you add more. The risotto is done when the grains are fully cooked but still firm, and you have a lovely creamy fairly thick (but not the consistency of paste!) sauce. The method outlined in the recipe may work, but it seemed to me like you wouldn't get the creamy texture of the rice and sauce. So, not trusting the recipe, what I did looks something like this:

5 T butter
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken
1 large sweet onion (I used Vidalia), chopped
1 lb Arborio rice (Arborio is one of the varieties of short-grain rice typically used for risotto)
5-ish cups chicken broth, heated to a simmer
1-ish cup hot water
2/3 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
1/2 teaspoon saffron (because saffron's to damn expensive to use a whole teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (because I'm the only one who likes it)

First, I prepped the ingredients. I grated the parmesan...
I usually use a microplane grater, but opted
for the larger holes of a box grater here
Measured out the rice...
Get a digital kitchen scale. Very, very handy
for baking and metric recipes.
Crumble the saffron, muttering to myself about how friggin' expensive it is...
See the saffron? No? That's because $15 only buys
you about .03 oz in a teeny little plastic bag, stuffed
inside a large bottle. Feh.
Chopped the chicken and onions. Then I melted the butter in a large skillet, and sautéed the chicken and onions until light brown. I then added the rice and sautéed for about five minutes. Meanwhile, I had the chicken broth in a pot on another burner and brought it to a simmer. I added about a cup initially, which was absorbed quickly. I then added the wine, saffron, salt and pepper and stirred that in before adding the next installment of chicken broth. Each time I added more broth, I added about 1/2 cup, and stirred pretty constantly until it was almost absorbed and added more. You may have noticed that I used about twice as much liquid as the original recipe called for. Maybe it was my cooking method, maybe the original recipe was poorly written, but my rice was still crunchy after 2 1/2 cups of broth. My rice was also on the older side, and so may have required more liquid.
Just after the addition of more liquid.
Really, it's difficult to give an exact amount of broth you will need. You just keep adding until the rice is cooked through, but still somewhat firm. It will absorb quickly at first, and will slow towards the end. You'll have to taste several times towards the end. I also thought, after about 4 1/2 or 5 cups of broth that the risotto was getting a little salty, so for the last cup or so of liquid I added just hot water. Once it was done (it took about 30 minutes of adding in liquid at medium -high heat until it was done), I served it immediately with a bit of Parmesan.

The taste and texture I though were quite good, however I don't claim to be a risotto expert of any kind! The lovely yellow color comes from the saffron. My husband liked it. Son didn't like the texture of the rice, although he liked the flavor (it was a new texture for him, and he's a big texture guy). Daughter ate some, but claimed she didn't like onion. Moral of this story: risotto is yummy, but it's a fair amount of time at the stove. Save it for people who will appreciate it.

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