Tuesday, August 12, 2008

new beginnings

I'm done with my glimpse of law firm life, and I am once again in Boston. Which means that we're returning to our (ir)regularly scheduled programming.

Well, sort of. My meals for the past three weeks have consisted pretty much of sandwiches and takeaway, so before I start tinkering with recipes and coming up with new crazy ideas, I need to ease my way back into proper cooking. (I also need a few days to stock the fridge so that I actually have something to cook.)

I've started simple: a salad of mixed greens with sardines and onions, a batch of black bean mole, and that chicken and apple risotto I alluded to in my last entry for Novel Food.

Risotto, you see, is an easygoing dish, just the sort of meal to get you back into the kitchen. It's big on patience, but light on technique. As long as you leave the heat low and keep stirring, you'll end up with creamy, luscious results.

I'm sure fine chefs everywhere will have heart attacks at such heresy, but I find that it's an excellent use-up-those-leftovers dish, a sort of Italian answer to fried rice.* After all, risotto is no pedigreed creation. Sure, you can dandy it up with truffles and lobster and other expensive ingredients, but risotto is really just the invention of some unknown peasant in rice country, trying to stretch a handful of something a little further.

Which means that it lends itself very well to taking a leftover bit of chicken, an apple, and few seasonings, and turning it into a whole new dish.

I think it's not a bad beginning. I hope you'll agree.

Chicken and Apple Risotto

You'll need the equivalent of a breast or thigh in shredded leftover chicken for this recipe. If you're lacking leftover chicken, this also works with sausage.

(Serves one for two or three meals. Can be frozen, though the texture of the rice will suffer.)

Pour three or four cups of chicken stock (homemade or storebought) into a small pan. Set the pan on a burner on low heat.

Heat a little olive oil and a small knob of butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over low heat. Add four finely sliced shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. Season with a sprinkling of fresh or dried thyme.

Add half a cup of arborio or carnaroli rice. Stir until the rice is warmed through.

If you're using leftover roast chicken, now would be the time to add a splash of hard cider. If you're using leftover braised chicken, add a splash of dry white wine. Stir.

When the rice has absorbed the cider or wine, turn the heat up a little and add a ladleful of stock. Stir until it has been absorbed by the rice, then add more. Continue this process (do not stop stirring) until the rice has reached the stage where it is soft enough to bite through, but still fairly hard.

Add your finely shredded leftover chicken. Continue stirring and ladling in stock. If you're starting to run out of stock, dilute it with hot water.

When the rice is almost done (just short of al dente), add one diced apple. I used Granny Smith, but any kind of tart apple will do. Check the seasoning; add salt if necessary. Cook until the rice is done, then turn off the heat. Stir in a generous amount of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Let stand for five minutes, then serve.

Note: You could probably add a dash of curry powder for a different twist, though it's an idea I haven't yet tested. I make no promises about the results.

(The image above is from Wikimedia Commons. Definitely not my work.)

*Within reason. You can get away with putting cold cuts into fried rice, but not into risotto.


Julie said...

Welcome back! I have to say that I've never considered making risotto with leftover chicken. Hhmmm.... what a good idea!

Ann said...

Yay! You're back! I totally agree with you on the risotto thing, and so does most of Italy. :-)

ayankeeinasouthernkitchen said...

Welcome home, Adele-you were missed! Love the combination of chicken and apple for a risotto! How was your trip?

Cakelaw said...

This sounds delicious! Sounds like you're now well and truly grounded in the life of a lawyer.

adele said...

Julie - It makes a nice change from chicken salad. :)

Ann - Oh, good. Maybe they'll help protect me when the chefs come after my blood?

ayankeeinasouthernkitchen - The best part of my trip was catching up on sleep. :)

cakelaw - Almost. I think I have to turn in my soul to complete the process. :P

Mrs. C said...

Glad to see you are back!

I get weak in the knees just thinking about risotto. This recipe sounds wonderful. Using apple? wow!

adele said...

It's good to be back! I've already got a massive to-do list, and now the challenge is figuring out how I'm going to find the time to shop, cook, AND blog. :P

Yulinka said...

Welcome back! I wouldn't hesitate to put cold cuts in leftover risotto. Leftover rice is good with random ingredients, no matter if it was a risotto or fried in its past life.