Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Soul Of A Chef and Risotto

At the moment I am totally engrossed in this book, The Soul Of A Chef, by Michael Ruhlman.  I found it at my school's spring used book fair back in April.  I don't want it to end, but I am ready when it does because I went to Barnes and Noble this week and bought The Making Of A Chef, the book he wrote before the one I am reading now.  Mr. Ruhlman is an incredibly talented writer.  I feel as if I am in the kitchen with him and that I personally know the chefs he writes about in this book.  Aren't books wonderful?   They transport us to faraway places.   I am nearing the end of the book and Ruhlman is interviewing Thomas Keller, chef extraordinaire of The French Laundry in Napa Valley.  I passed through Napa a few years ago on my way from the Folsom-Sacramento area where I was taking a computer scheduling course to San Francisco for an evening.  Someday I hope that the Ex-Ex and I will go there for a visit.  I have no illusions about my own personal palate, but I would like to think that I could have lunch at The French Laundry and understand what Keller is trying to teach his diners about flavor.  You never know, I guess...  on ne sait jamais.  Until then, I will keep finding new and wonderful books to whisk me away and take me on voyages around the U.S. and the world.
I hit a homerun with the eaters tonight.  Go me!  I adore risotto, having been introduced to seafood risotto in Arles by Chef Érick and having it prepared for me on a weekly basis with the mussels and shrimp coming off the boats twice weekly and sold at the outdoor market. Chef Érick shops only at Saint Louis Pêcheurs, by the way.
I have since learned to make risotto myself and take great pleasure in standing over the stove and stirring and stirring and stirring.
In the May/June issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine there is a recipe entitled "Amost Hands-Free Risotto."  I decided to give it a try.  Writer Andrea Geary goes into great, but readable, detail about the chemistry of risotto and then offers up two recipes that she worked out and perfected.  I was admittedly skeptical, but the results speak for themselves.  My little sister Moo gave me a Dutch oven she found at a yard sale and I decided to use it for my risotto.  It does not get enough use, to tell the truth.
I used herbs from my deck garden... could I be prouder?  I think not.  Je crois que non.
I told the BFF what I was planning to cook today while we were out for our early morning walk and she stopped by chez moi with the recommended wine from my buddies at Wine Authorities.  Barbera D'Asti 2008 Sant'Evasio.  Perfect.
She really is the best BFF imaginable.  She didn't even get to stay to taste the risotto or wine since it is Daddy-O's birthday and she needed to get home.  (BTW, it is also Canada Day.)
It really was delicious.  I am so glad there are leftovers so that I can have some more tomorrow.  Would it be weird to eat risotto for breakfast?
Who cares, right?

Almost Hands-Free Risotto with Chicken and Herbs
serves 6

5 c. low-sodium chicken broth
2 c. water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 chicken breast halves (about 12 oz. each), each cut in half crosswise (the recipe calls for skin-on, bone-in breasts-- I used skinless, boneless and just cooked them for a shorter period of time-- still juicy and full of flavor)
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 c.)
Table salt
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
2 c. Arborio rice
1 c. dry white wine (I used a Picpoul de Pinet from Wine Authorities)
2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
Ground black pepper

1.  Bring both broth and water to a boil in large saucepan over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low to maintain gentle simmer.
2.  Heat olive oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just starting to smoke.  Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until golden brown, 4-6 minutes.  Flip chicken and cook second side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.  Transfer chicken to saucepan of simmering broth and cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 165 degrees, about 10-15 minutes.  Transfer to plate.
3.  Add 2 tablespoons butter to now-empty Dutch oven set over medium heat.  When butter has melted, add onion and 3/4 tsp. salt; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened but not browned, 4-7 minutes.  Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes.
4. Add wine and cook, stirring constantly, until fully absorbed, 2-3 minutes.  Stir 5 cups hot broth mixture into rice;  reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until almost all liquid has been absorbed and rice is just al dente, 16-19 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.
5. Add 3/4 cup hot broth mixture to risotto and stir gently and constantly until risotto becomes creamy, about 3 minutes.  Stir in Parmesan.  Remove pot from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.
6.  Meanwhile, remove and discard chicken skin and bones and shred meat into bite-size pieces.  Gently stir shredded chicken, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, lemon juice, parsley and chives into risotto.  If desired, add up to 1/2 c. remaining hot broth mixture to loosen texture of risotto.  Serve immediately.

Bon appétit, to all food writers, cooks and chefs!


MPK said...

Bon Appétit BFF - hope you saved a bite for me! And just as sometimes you should have dessert first - why not have risotto for breakfast!

The Sabbatical Chef said...

There are leftovers in the refrigerator just waiting for you, BFF!!