March 25, 2007

Parmesan Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms

Having grown up in Alabama, I never really knew what risotto was until I moved to New York. Ever since coming across this Italian staple, this dish has intrigued me—the texture, the flavor, and most of all, the technique for making it. For this last reason, I have always shied away from preparing it myself.

Well, it was time to conquer my fear and try it myself. When learning how to make something new, I resort to the internet. So yesterday I read through about 20 recipes for risotto. In the end, I learned that risotto is not hard to make, but it does require some consistent tending to.

Once I figured out the basic techniques, it was time to figure out what I wanted in my risotto. I was looking for subtle flavors that together would build a strong flavor. Okay…leeks. I love these onion-like vegetables yet I have not cooked with them in quite a while. What else... Cheese, Parmesan to be exact. I wanted the texture to be especially smooth and creamy, and this cheese would help me accomplish this task. Lastly, mushrooms. I wanted to add a meaty substance without using meat so these did the trick. I also decided to cook the risotto with some white wine to add a nice twist.

The final product was quite good, but also very rich. I used ¼ cup of half and half, which I had in my refrigerator and needed to use up. I think the recipe can do without this step if you want to make it less rich. I also used ½ pound of thinly sliced cremini mushrooms, which I think was too much. Therefore, in the recipe below I am lowering the amount and also recommending that you cut the slices into quarters to help the mushrooms blend in better. If you want to use this risotto as a side dish, you might want to eliminate the mushrooms altogether as the leeks and cheese on their own make for a really nice companion to a main dish.

Okay, here is the recipe for about 2-3 main dish servings (5 or 6 side servings):
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white and pale green part sliced lengthwise, then chopped across (don’t forget to rinse the chopped pieces)
  • 1/3 lb cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced then quartered
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • ¾ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup half and half cream (optional)
  • Chopped parsley to garnish
  1. In a covered pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to a low setting.
  2. As broth is heating up, add 2 tbsp olive oil and leeks to a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté leeks until they just begin to brown.
  3. At the same time, in another sauté pan over medium to medium low heat, add remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and mushrooms. Cook until tender. Once cooked, put mushrooms aside.
  4. When the leeks are ready, add the Arborio rice and mix until the rice is glistening with the olive oil.
  5. Pour wine into the leeks and rice mixture and stir constantly until absorbed (the mixture will be thick and creamy).
  6. Add 1/2 cup of broth and mix until the rice again absorbs the liquid and reaches a thick, creamy consistency. Continue this process, pouring only 1/2 cup of broth at a time, until the rice is tender. This should take about 20 minutes. Also note, that the amount of broth needed will vary so you may not use all 4 cups. If you need more liquid, water will be just fine.
  7. Mix in cheese, cream, and mushrooms.
  8. Serve, garnished with chopped parsley.

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March 18, 2007

Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken

As you can probably tell from my lack of recent posting, I have been incredibly busy the past couple months. However, things are finally beginning to slow down and it is time to get back into the swing of things with my cooking!

I was out of town the past couple of weekends, so this weekend was all about catching up and relaxing. So after a day of chores, how better to end it than with an easy chicken roasted chicken? The key here was finding a recipe that sounded tasty but was also super, super easy (after all, I was trying to minimize my day’s work).

I went to the Food Network’s website, and the most enticing recipe was from Tyler Florence for a Lemon And Herb Roasted Chicken With Baby Potatoes. It was pretty strait forward and required few ingredients. It also sounded like it would create those great, aromatic smells that I expect from roasting a chicken. So I opted for this recipe.

Now you roast chicken purists may snub your nose at this recipe, as it doesn’t require the fancy techniques to crisp the skin to perfection or to make the chicken breasts as moist as possible. However, I think the point of this recipe is producing a great tasting chicken with minimal work—not the world’s most perfect chicken.

Note that the recipe calls for 1 ½ pounds red new potatoes. In memory of my days in London, where Sunday roasts populate every home and pub, I replaced some of the potatoes with parsnips and carrots. If you choose to also do this, keep in mind that the parsnips and carrots will take less time to roast. Therefore, do not add them until about 40 minutes from when you expect the chicken to be done. Also, when you do add them, be sure to mix them with the juices.
Okay, here is Tyler Florence’s recipe from the Food Network:
  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) free-range chicken
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  • 1/4 bunch each fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds red new potatoes
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Rinse the chicken with cool water, inside and out, then pat it dry with paper towels.
  3. Season the cavity with salt and pepper, and then stuff the lemon, garlic, and herbs inside.
  4. Place the chicken, breast-side up, in a roasting pan. Tie the legs of the chicken together with kitchen twine to help hold its shape.
  5. Toss the potatoes around the chicken. Season the whole thing with a fair amount of salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
  6. Roast the chicken and potatoes for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Don't forget to baste the chicken with the drippings and rotate the pan every 20 minutes or so to insure a golden crispy skin.
  7. The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer says 165 degrees F when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (the legs of the chicken should wiggle easily from the sockets too.)
  8. Remove the chicken to a platter and let stand for 10 minutes, so the juices settle back into the meat before carving. Serve with the roasted potatoes on the side.