Low-Maintenance Risotto with Chicken and Herbs

Risotto, to me, is an ultimate comfort food dish.  If you’ve never had it, Risotto is a classic Italian dish where Arborio rice is cooked in broth until it reaches a creamy consistency.  To me, there’s nothing better than cuddling up on the couch with a blanket on a cold Fall or Winter’s day, with a warm, creamy bowl of risotto.

As for the preparation: rice cooked in broth.  Easy, right?

WRONG.

Risotto is an incredibly fickle beast.  If you’ve ever watched the reality cooking show Hells Kitchen, you’ll know that Gordon Ramsey is frequently screaming at contestants for screwing up risotto.  In a matter of moments, you can under cook it, overcook it, or burn it.

Under normal circumstances, you need to commit at least 30 minutes of your time to standing over the hot stove and constantly stirring the rice, while gradually adding warmed broth in order to get the perfect consistency.  It truly is a labor of love and there’s a reason that fancy restaurants charge exorbitant amounts to basically just cook RICE for you.

I recently came across an America’s Test Kitchen recipe for “Almost Hands-Free Risotto” and I had to give it a try.  Could it truly be possible that risotto could be properly prepared with hardly any stirring or attention?

The answer is, undoubtedly, YES.

Start with the chicken.  The chicken is obviously optional, but since we were having this as our main meal rather than a side dish or first course, the chicken helped it become a more substantial meal.

In a large saucepan, bring the broth and water to a boil over high-heat and then immediately reduce to medium-low heat to maintain a gentle simmer.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch Oven over medium heat, until just starting to smoke.  The use of the Dutch Oven is really preferred over a large skillet or saucepan because the thick, heavy bottom, deep sides, and tight-fitting lid are made to trap and distribute heat as evenly as possible.

Pat the chicken down with paper towels until dry and add the chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes.  Flip the chicken and cook second side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.  Chicken will not be fully cooked through at this point.  Transfer the chicken to the saucepan with simmering broth/water combo, and cook until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees at the thickest part of the chicken.  Transfer the chicken to a large plate – do not discard the broth/water.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the empty Dutch oven and set over medium heat.  There’s no need to clean it out after cooking the chicken in it.  Once the butter has melted, add the chopped onion and 3/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onion has softened, but not browned.  This will take about 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around the edges, about 3 minutes.  It is important to stir because otherwise the rice will start to stick to the pan.

Add 1 cup of dry white wine and cook until full absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Stir in 5 cups of the warm broth/water mixture and reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cover and simmer until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed into the rice and the rice is just al dente, about 16 to 18 minutes.  During the simmer, stir the mixture TWICE.

Add 3/4 cup of warm broth to risotto and stir gently and continuously until the risotto becomes creamy, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese and remove the pot from heat.  Cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove and discard skin and bones from the chicken and shred into bite-size pieces.  Gently stir in the chicken, remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, lemon juice, parsley, and chives into risotto.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Texture of risotto is largely a personal preference, so if desired, add up to 1/2 cup additional broth to loosen texture of risotto.

I can testify that the method WORKS and as always, the risotto made me supremely happy…Especially while watching freezing rain come down outside, safe from the security of my couch and PJs 🙂
Ingredients

  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves (about 12 ounces each)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion , chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
  •   Table salt
  • 1 large garlic clove , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  •   Ground black pepper

Serves 6

Recipe Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen: Season 11 – Easier Italian Favorites

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Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Poultry, Recipes, Side Dishes

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