March 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Risotto and Homemade Chicken Stock

When I read that Eleanor of Melbourne Food Geek and Jess of Jess The Baker chose risotto as the Daring Cooks’ challenge this month, I was excited. I love risotto – I’ve made a lot of variations, including a squash risotto I’ve made many times since this posting. Risotto is a definite family pleaser around here – and why not? It’s creamy, luscious, filling - the ultimate comfort food! But it’s only fairly recently that I discovered what can really make such a difference in the finished risotto, taking it from already-quite-delicious to oh-my-this-is-amazing. No, it’s not a fancy, expensive, hard-to-find secret ingredient.

It’s homemade chicken stock.

Yep, an unassuming, almost free ingredient (if you plan correctly) makes a key difference in your risotto – or any recipe calling for stock, for that matter. Why? Well, canned stock, while satisfactory in a pinch, is insipid and lacking in the robust flavor that homemade stock can provide. When I make stock, I rarely follow a regimented recipe. Over time, I freeze leftover vegetables – carrots, celery, onions, etc., roasted leftover chicken bones, backs and wing tips from breaking down whole chickens. (I also buy chicken feet just for stock – they add a luscious gelatin, giving the stock more body.) I simply dump approximate amounts of vegetables, chicken bones, and parmesan rinds if I have them, and simmer, simmer, simmer until the stock has taken on a wonderful golden brown color and bursts with flavor. The wonderful thing about this is that it takes little effort on my part. It’s a great thing to make when I’m busy around the house, tending to other duties.

Anyway, back to risotto. For the challenge, I opted to make two risottos – one savory, one sweet. The savory risotto was straightforward – nothing fancy, just quality ingredients throughout. I was glad I kept it minimalistic, as I think this was the best risotto we’ve had to date. Sometimes, simplicity wins.

As for the sweet risotto, I would like to try again at tweaking the recipe further. In spite of the combination of flavors, the resulting risotto was rather one-note. I think adding the lemon zest towards the end of cooking would have made a difference in the brightness of flavors, and I may try for that next time. I also would love to try to add cardamom to the spices for additional depth of flavor. Still working on it, so if I come up with an amazing version, I’ll definitely share it with you!

Chicken Stock

1 lb chicken feet

1-2 lb chicken bones (leftover roasted bones are even better than raw)

1 onion, cut in half (don’t bother to peel)

2 carrots, chopped roughly (don’t bother to peel)

2 celery stalks, chopped roughly

1/4 c parsley (you can even use stems)

2 rinds from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (if you have them)

Place all items in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 4-5 hours, or until reduced nearly by half. Strain to remove bones and vegetables. Pour in glass jars and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight. Scoop fat that has solidified on the top of the stock. The stock should be nice and gelled. You can freeze for months, or use within a week if refrigerated.

Risotto

5-6 cups chicken stock

2 T olive oil

2 T butter, divided

2 T minced onion or shallot

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 c Arborio rice

½ c white wine

¼ c parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ c fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Warm stock in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep warm.

In a large, shallow pan, heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. When melted and starting to bubble, add onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes and add garlic. Saute an additional minute. Add Arborio rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until grains are turning white. Add white wine and stir through rice, cooking until nearly dry. Add 1 ladle of warmed stock and stir often, cooking until nearly dry. Repeat this process until the grains of rice are plump and start to give off a creamy texture (this should take about 20-30 minutes). You won’t have to stir continuously, but you should be stirring the rice at least every minute or so. When grains are just shy of al dente, add just a bit more stock, the remaining tablespoon of butter, and the parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve when rice grains are al dente, but not mushy, garnished with a bit of parsley.

Serves 4.

Sweet Risotto

1-2 T butter

1 c Arborio rice

1/4 c marsala

2-3 c milk plus 2 c water, warmed

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 c golden raisins

1/4 c currants

zest of 1 lemon

3-4 T agave nectar

3 T mascarpone cheese

1 T amaretto liqueur

1/4 c chopped almonds

In a large, shallow pan, heat butter over medium heat. When melted and starting to bubble, add rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until grains are turning white. Add marsala wine and stir through rice, cooking until nearly dry. Add 1 ladle of warmed milk/water mixture, vanilla bean, cinnamon, raisins, currants, agave nectar and lemon zest and stir often, cooking until nearly dry. Add another ladle of milk/water mixture, and repeat this process until the grains of rice are plump and start to give off a creamy texture (this should take about 20-30 minutes). You won’t have to stir continuously, but you should be stirring the rice at least every minute or so. When grains are just shy of al dente, add just a bit more milk/water and the mascarpone cheese. Taste and season with additional agave nectar as needed. Serve when rice grains are al dente, but not mushy, garnished with chopped almonds.

Serves 4.

30 Responses to “Daring Cooks: Risotto and Homemade Chicken Stock”

  1. How fun, I just posted about chicken and beef stocks! I totally agree, way better than the cans :) The risotto looks fabulous, I bet it tasted incredible too!

  2. Nice!!! Your risotto looks to creamy. i need to try and make some soon.

  3. wow! way to go! those both look amazing!

  4. Looks great! I made a batch for the challenge and liked it so much I am making it again for dinner tonight.

  5. Oh my, that looks delish!! It does look super creamy – YUM!

  6. I love that you called canned stock insipid! Awesome. I’m surprised that the sweet one was one note, given all those yummy ingredients. I bet you’re right, if you added lemon zest at the end it would probably pop.

  7. It all sounds so good, the sweet, the savory, the stock! But I’m leaning toward that sweet one. YUM!

  8. I agree with the “insipid” description. Even broth made with Better than Bouillon is better than store bought stock in my opinion. I almost always have a chicken carcass to work with though. Having never made risotto myself, I’m enjoying all of these wonderful entries. Both of yours look amazing. I’m thinking citrus would be nice for the sweet risotto, too. My preference would be orange. ;-)

    Shirley

  9. Your chicken stock looks incredible…I’ve never used chicken feet. That’s daring. I use the rest of the chicken but somehow using feet elevates this to another level. Congrats on completing another scrumptious challenge.

  10. Oh the risotto looks so beautiful and delicious! I want this for dinner tomorrow.

  11. Both recipes look sensational, and the photos are tempting me to make both. Many thanks for this excellent post.

  12. I agree that making your own stock is the key to success; and so easy to freeze!
    Sweet risotto is adds a nice twist to this usually savory dish.

  13. Beautiful job on both risottos. I agree that the homemade stock makes such a huge, wonderful difference! I will be trying a sweet risotto after reading about all of these fantastic ones – sorry yours wasn’t what you’d hoped, but I am sure it was still delicious!! Great job with the challenge!

  14. Mmm….looks creamy and delicious. I love it.

  15. I’ve never had a sweet risotto. It sounds delicious!

  16. I think simple is definitely best when it comes to risotto. Good for you for going both savory and sweet…both look great…nice job!

  17. Oh the risotto looks delicious.

  18. Yum! It all looks so good =D. I love that you made a sweet risotto! Great flavours!

  19. Beautiful dish. I always love risotto but never tried a sweet one. Hope to make one soon after seeing your post.

  20. I agree that it takes a good stock to make an excellent risotto. Good for you for recommending chicken feet, it does add a nice texture to the stock, and the gelatin is so good for you.

  21. Since I live my life gluten-free, risotto is a favorite of mine and I couldn’t agree with you more on the idea of homemade broth. Bones add such texture, taste and nutrition. I haven’t used feet before, but will give it a try. I love the goal of using every little bit of the bird that you can.

    And by the way, I finally read your “about” page. It was great and you are such a doll!

    Thanks for the great recipes!
    Melissa

  22. Yes, I love that you mentioned that homemade stock is a FREE ingredient when planned correctly. Such a flavor and nutrition enhancer. And I love love love the sweet risotto!

  23. Your risotto looks delicious! Thanks for the tips/info. regarding chicken stock!

  24. Now, I know I’m biased that only we in the East use chicken feet to prepare soup. Be honest , I also make stock with leftovers in a way similar to yours, but your descriptions make them sound nice.

  25. Risotto 2 ways… excellent. I love your review on the results. Yes indeed, sometimes simplicity wins! I like the sound of that!!

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