Risotto with Chicken and Peas
Maybe because there’s snow on the ground and more coming, the aroma of simmering chicken broth seems very inviting. This is really to show you that making your own chicken broth is very practical–it provides you with a couple of meals and then a couple of bags of frozen broth to add to other dishes in the future to increase their flavor exponentially.
Some recipes call for using several whole chickens, then discarding the meat and vegetables. I hate discarding anything in the kitchen, so I use a minimum of vegetables in my broth and I only use the dark meat to make broth (thighs, legs or wings). I use dark meat because it holds up to long-simmering, then simmering again in some other use. The breast dries out with long-simmering, I find.
I love risotto and I only make it with homemade broth, so the first day of making broth, I’m always inclined to use the occasion to make risotto. Because I love risotto as a main course, the easiest way to introduce some protein into it is to add back some of the chicken meat as it simmers.
To make the broth, simply place a bunch of thighs/legs/wings in a stockpot or dutch oven. The amount of water depends on how much of the pot is taken up by the chicken–about fifty percent chicken parts/fifty percent water is a nice ratio for a nice flavorful broth–but you can get by with a little more water/less chicken by adding a bit more salt.
Add a couple of ribs of celery, cut into thirds or quarters and a large onion, cut in quarters (not peeled–the peel has flavor). These will be discarded at the end, unless you like eating them as you’re straining the broth, as I do.
The crucial ingredient in broth is salt. If you’ve done everything the way you think you’re supposed to and it still tastes flavorless, chances are you haven’t added enough salt. It’s tricky. You can throw in a bouillon cube or two, let them dissolve, and then start tasting and adding salt. After you add some salt, simmer for a little while (ten minutes or so) before tasting and adding more.
The broth develops flavor from resting in the fridge overnight as well–it always tastes much rounder and fuller the next day. But don’t let that prevent you from making risotto the day you make it . . .
The risotto begins with shallots or onions simmering in butter in a curved-bottom saucepan for about five minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the rice and saute it with the onion for another five minutes or so. Next, pour in some white wine and it will sizzle and evaporate very quickly. Next, set the timer to fifteen minutes . . . Begin adding broth to the rice about a cup at a time, stirring often. Stir it often enough to not let the rice begin sticking to the bottom of the pot. You’ll need about four or five cups of broth to one cup of rice (this is good for a hearty main course for two people).
After about ten minutes, add some shredded chicken meat and continue stirring. At fifteen minutes, add some frozen peas and cover and let sit for five minutes. Before serving, stir in some more butter and a good amount of grated parmiggiano cheese. Add a bit more broth to make it as soupy as you want. Always serve in a warm bowl with more cheese.
If you decide to make an extra-large batch of risotto, you can make croquette di riso or rice croquettes the following day or a couple days later. I learned these from my neighbor Beppi. They’re a labor of love and I’ll try to explain them in the recipe that follows.
If there’s still some chicken left from the broth, I love to poach it in a simple tomato sauce to have over fettucine. The chicken imparts a very delicate flavor to the tomato sauce and in no way feels like the recycling of a leftover.
Finally, take the remaining broth and freeze it in quart-size ziplocs for later use.
Simple Chicken Broth
8 to 10 chicken thighs, legs or wings (or combination)
3 ribs of celery cut into fourths
2 small onions or 1 large, unpeeled, cut into quarters
Place chicken in stockpot or dutch oven and cover with water by a couple of inches. Add vegetables and bring to a simmer. Partially covered, simmer for about an hour. From time to time, skim froth from top and discard.
After one hour, add some salt and/or a bouillon cube. Let simmer ten more minutes, then taste. Add salt until it tastes good.
Let rest in fridge overnight and skim solid fat from top the next day.
If using for risotto the same day, don’t worry about dipping into the fat on top–it only makes the risotto taste better.
Risotto with Chicken and Peas
Large batch–Serves 6 or use leftovers for rice croquettes (recipe follows)
1 stick of butter
8 small shallots or 2 large onions, dice fine
1 lb arborio rice (or other risotto varieties, like carnaroli or vialone nano)
1 cup white wine
Shredded chicken meat from broth
10 cups of chicken broth (and maybe more)
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup grated parmiggiano
Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in curved sided saucepan (enameled cast iron works best–otherwise any heavyweight pot). Slowly saute shallots until they just begin to turn golden. Raise heat to medium-high and add rice and saute for about five minutes. Add wine and let evaporate for a couple of minutes. Add a cup of the stock and reduce the heat to medium. Set the timer for fifteen minutes and keep stirring from time to time to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Continue adding stock a cup at a time or enough to keep it creamy-looking. If it’s going too fast and it looks dry, immediately add broth. Better to keep it too moist than too dry.
At ten minutes, add the chicken meat and continue adding broth as needed. At fifteen minutes, add the remaining butter, 1 cup of parmiggiano and the peas. Cover and let rest for five minutes. It should be creamy with a little bit of bite left in the rice. Add a little broth at the last second if you want a soupier consistency–sometimes I do, sometimes not.
Beppi’s Croqette di Riso
3 cups Leftover Risotto (could be a little more, just adjust breadcrumbs–see below)
1 cup flour
3 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup parmiggiano
1 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Olive Oil for frying
Use risotto while it is still cold from the refrigerator. If there are any chicken pieces, dice them into small dice and add back to risotto. Add 2 eggs plus all of the parmiggiano, parsley, black pepper and nutmeg. Add about a cup of the breadcrumbs or enough to make the mixture feel fairly stiff. Refrigerate again for fifteen minutes.
Line up three pie plates or shallow baking dishes next to each other and in the first one, place the flour, spread out in an even layer. In the second, crack and beat the remaining 2 eggs. In the third, spread out the remaining seasoned bread crumbs (add more, if necessary).
Make little torpedoes of the risotto about 4 or 5 inches long and about 2 inches wide and dip each first in flour (gently knock off the extra flour from each after dredging) then in beaten egg, then roll in crumbs. Place all on a platter and regrigerate again for at least 15 minutes.
Heat an inch of oil in a dutch oven until a cube of bread sizzles when you place it in. Gently fry the croquettes, gently turning until golden brown. They should take about ten minutes to fry. If they’re browning too quickly, lower temperature of the burner.
Can be eaten at any temperature.