Add to that my first experience eating real risotto in Italy. A quiet little eatery in the back alleys of Venice, a seafood risotto to rival the best of them. Incredible. And then in Florence (my favourite Italian city of them all), where I enjoyed the most indescribable meal I think I’ve ever had – SO good that I had it two nights in a row and only didn’t repeat it on the third because I thought “I should probably try something else”. Imagine my extreme disappointment when the dish of my choosing did not live up to the best prawn risotto ever. I should have had it 3 nights in a row!
I make this meal occasionally in the Summer if I have a large crowd (i.e. my family) to feed, but generally it’s an Autumn/Winter dish in our home.
I’m happy to report that if you’ve been terrified too, you needn’t be! It’s easy, although practise does help perfect the timing to get the rice just right. It’s one of those meals that is so satisfying and so comforting, such a yummy combination of flavours and one the kids really love. It’s sophisticated enough for the adults too.
Chicken & Leek Risotto
600g Arborio rice
120g unsalted butter, divided
1 T extra virgin olive oil
500g boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thinly
1 brown onion, very finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large or 2 small leeks, sliced (I cut lengthways and then cut up in 1cm slices)
1.5 L Chicken stock (I use Massels stock cubes in boiled water)
300ml dry white wine (optional, however, if you don’t use, increase your stock quantity)
Rind & juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Small handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium sized pot, heat chicken stock (and wine if using) and simmer on low.
Place olive oil in frypan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until browned. Set aside.
In a heavy based pot, heat the butter and sauté onion, garlic and leeks over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring often until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the rice and stir to coat completely in butter.
Using a ladle or large spoon, add 1 ladle-ful of liquid and cook, stirring often, until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Continue adding 1/2 cup stock at a time, ensuring that the rice is just covered and stir, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Check the rice after 15-20 minutes. Be careful not to let the rice become gluggy.
Add the chicken to the rice and combine until the chicken is heated through and the rice is tender and creamy.
Remove from the heat when the rice is cooked. Add the lemon zest and juice, the remaining butter and parsley and stir through until the butter has melted evenly.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately and offer extra grated Parmesan and parsley.
Source: adapted from The Cooks Companion, Stephanie Alexander